Former Mustang hoop star Ridley headed for Section V Hall of Fame

Gary Pinneo

The number of former Penn Yan Mustang basketball standouts who are members of the Section V Basketball Hall of Fame will increase by one this coming November. 

The Section V Basketball Hall of Fame committee announced their 10th induction class last week and former Penn Yan Mustang basketball great Benny Ridley will join this exclusive group. 

Ridley, a 1958 graduate of Penn Yan Academy, has a long association with high school basketball in Section V.

He will join former Lady Mustang star of the 1986 State Championship team Debbie Eaves (Curbeau) and legendary Penn Yan Girl's basketball coach Bob Church as members of this prestigious group. 

Penn Yan's Birkett Mills, a staunch supporter of Section V high school sports in general and basketball in particular, is also a corporate member of the Section V Basketball Hall of Fame.  Jeff Gifford and Wayne Wagner, executives of the buckwheat product manufacturer, have both been huge supporters and contributors to Section V basketball over the years. 

The Birkett Mills is the corporate sponsor of the Section V Basketball Hall of Fame and also the annual tournament seeding luncheon in March.  This year's induction ceremony in Rochester will take place in November.  The Hall of Fame certainly has an impressive Penn Yan connection.

Penn Yan's newest inductee, Benny Ridley, was a genuine round ball superstar during his high school playing days in Penn Yan.  He was known as the best pure shooter ever to play for the Mustangs.  In 1957 and 1958 seasons, he led the Wayne Finger Lakes League in scoring. Ridley broke the existing PYA school and Wayne Finger Lakes League single game scoring record when he notched 44 points against Lyons in 1958. 

His record still stands.  Benny Ridley was the team leader on that 1957-58 Mustang squad. The pre-season outlook for this team was not very promising. Most experts had picked them to finish in the middle of the pack. 

A newspaper article called the upstart Mustangs "a spirited but inexperienced squad."  But the scrappy Orange and Blue cagers proved the "pundits" wrong.  Behind the sharp shooting marksmanship of Mr. Ridley and the hard-nosed play of the Long brothers, Larry and Lynn, Tom Killian, Larry Hibbard and Chuck Kennerson; the Mustangs had one of the best seasons record-wise in Mustang history. 

They won 16 games that season and lost only four times. Penn Yan had to defeat Canandaigua in a playoff game to qualify for the sectionals for the first time in over 10 years.  The Mustangs defeated the Braves in this pressure packed game, 74-55 behind a 36-point scoring performance by Benny Ridley. 

Penn Yan continued their round ball excellence in the quarterfinals of the Section V Tournament with a convincing 54-44 drubbing of Rochester's Marshall High. 

They subsequently lost to the eventual champion Spencerport team in the semifinals a couple of nights later. The 1957-58 Penn Yan Mustangs earned their place as one of the best basketball teams in the school's long history.

After graduating from Penn Yan Academy in 1958, Ridley attended Alfred Tech and played college basketball. 

He helped lead the Techsters to the N.J.C.A.A. Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas.  After completing his studies and career at Alfred Tech, Ridley earned a scholarship to play Division I College basketball at East Texas State. He ended his basketball playing years with two solid years in the Lone Star State. 

After college, Ridley had a long, successful career in the high school coaching ranks. 

He coached basketball at Bath-Haverling High School for 24 years, earning a long list of honors and wins during his tenure at the Steuben County school.

From 1968 - 1996, Ridley was the Section V Basketball chairman for Steuben County. 

Under the senior picture of Benny Ridley in the 1958 Penn Yan Academy Yearbook, the caption read:  "Someday his name will be written in sport's history."

It is amazing how prophetic this observation turned out to be. Certainly, when you talk about the history of basketball at Penn Yan Academy, the name Benny Ridley always is mentioned as one of their "Mr. Basketballs.” 

He is one of the best ever to play the game for the Orange and Blue. 

He was "lights out" as a shooter.  And now you can add one more phrase to his name... Hall-of-Famer.  Congratulations, Mr. Ridley on this well deserved honor.