Cedar Ridge got a taste of international competition on Wednesday night as the Red Wolves hosted the Blackburn Vikings, an Australian club team that is from the suburbs of Melbourne.
The boys got a much-needed win, taking the game 51-46 as Mekai Collins led the way with 15 points and Terrence Crawford added 11, including a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that allowed the Red Wolves to pull away.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Cedar Ridge (6-7), which struggled during the holiday break with three losses in the Holiday at the Pines Tournament at Pinecrest last week.
“We needed this win to get our confidence back,” said Cedar Ridge junior guard Khalil Barnett. “After losing four games in a row, we needed a win. We didn’t know what to expect from them but one thing we did know was that they could shoot from outside.”
Blackburn hit six three’s in the game, and four of their five made baskets in the first quarter came from behind the arc. But after that, Cedar Ridge’s defense took away most of Blackburn’s open looks from long range. Samuel Porteous lead Blackburn with 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Cedar Ridge has been a destination for many other Australian teams, according to Red Wolves coach Clay Jones. He said he welcomes the competition and is glad to host games against teams from Australia.
“History has shown that their teams are pretty similar,” Jones said. “But this is one of the most-skilled teams we played. They set good, hard screens and they shot the ball well. Our guys handled every pretty well.”
In the girls’ game, Blackburn cruised to a 74-26 win over the Red Wolves. They used their physicality and speed to take early control of the game and never let Cedar Ridge mount any real challenge.
Blackburn guard Samantha Zennaro said they play a physical game back home and it was a bit of adjustment getting used to the way the game is played here.
“We’ve enjoyed the games so far,” Zennaro said. “They’ve been a different but interesting level to play against. The American style of basketball is different from what we have at home. It took us a little while to adjust to it but we have the knack of it.”
Team president David Zennaro said the club likes to organize a trip to the United States every two to three years. This was their first trip to the Triangle after previous visits to Washington and California.
“It’s hard to squeeze in everything you want to do in such a short time,” Zennaro said.
They arrived on Dec. 23 and will return home next week after playing eight games.
But this trip was about more than basketball. Earlier on Wednesday, they toured the campuses at Duke and UNC.
“It’s very different for us because our colleges, or our uni’s [universities] at home aren’t as big,” said Blackburn guard Emily Wilson said. “We have a lot more. We don’t have two big ones like UNC and Duke.”
Wilson said she was impressed by the school spirit at UNC.
“Everyone is patriotic to their uni here,” Wilson said. “Everybody was wearing their Carolina blue, which we find really cool. For us, college is just another institution and then we go home. We love that aspect of uni’s here.”
After the game, they were off to Washington, D.C. for more touring and to watch a game between Georgetown and St. John’s, whose rivalry has been as heated as anything on Tobacco Road. They’ll wrap up their trip in Los Angeles with a pair of NBA games — Trail Blazers at the Lakers and then the Magic at the Clippers. And of course, there will be a trip to Disneyland.