Friday Night the Red Devils traveled to Lafayette to face their toughest opponent of the season, The Lafayette Jeff Bronchos. The #4 ranked Bronchos, leading into the game were perfect against North Central Conference opponents. In fact, they had only lost three games; Lawrence Central (the #1 team in the state), Westfield, and Warren Central of Kentucky. Richmond, on a nine-game win streak, had their work cut out for them. They were already down Drew Kroft, but earlier in the morning, Messiah Tyler became ill, and could not make the trek to Lafayette. For Coach Baz, he knew his team had to strike first, and set the tempo of the game, and his guys had to buy into the fact, that they could win this game if they played Richmond basketball. In a game that saw 7 lead changes and 4 ties, there would be more drama than a soap opera.
Strike first, they did. Richmond won the tip and scored first. They scored 2 unanswered buckets before Jeff returned fire. When Coach Baz and I spoke before the game started, he mentioned that the most important thing Richmond could do was win the 1st 4 minutes of the 1st and 3rd quarters against Lafayette Jeff. In this first quarter, they did just that. But Jeff started to play their game of basketball, and midway through the 1st quarter, The Bronchos took the lead. The quarter wrapped up with Lafayette Jeff up by 5, 17-12.
Lafayette Jeff struck first in the 2nd quarter as well, off a free throw. They started pounding in shots until they were up by 13 points, 25-12. In fact, they had scored 10 unanswered points before Richmond countered with a 3. Richmond popped another 3 to drop that lead to 7 points, but Jeff started to pour more salt in the wounds. By the time the intermission buzzer sounded, Richmond was back where they started the quarter, down by 5, 35-30.
During halftime, Coach Baz preached to his team that the most important thing they could do, is coming out and win the first 4 minutes of the 3rd quarter. When the 3rd quarter started, Richmond did strike first, they also drew a foul which brought Jeff’s lead to just 1. But, the powerful Bronchos started to pepper on the shots, and within 4 minutes, Richmond was down by 12 again. But, the Red Devils kept fighting, kept shooting, kept driving. They finished the quarter, worse than when they started down by 7, 58-51. If anyone said they knew at that point that Richmond would comeback and win…well they are straight lying to your face.
The 4th quarter came down to a battle between Coach Shabaz Khaliq, and Coach Mark Barnhizer. Richmond started Jordan Stole, Koream Jett, Tytan Newton, Ty Harris, and Cleevas Craig. They rotated Rafael Deane, and Dorian Hill in rotation. Lafayette Jeff started Avery Beaver, Ashton Beaver, Brooks Barnhizer, Braxton Barnhizer, and Matthew Jones. They only subbed in one guy, Armoni Williams, who only subbed for Jones. While Coach Baz would give everyone a bit of a rest (when needed) Coach Barnhizer’s strategy was to keep the Beavers and the Barnhizers on the court the entire 32 minutes. Both sets of brothers were incredibly conditioned, but as the tension started to build in Marion Crawley Athletic Center, Richmond’s guys seemed more adapt to the pressure.
The 4th quarter started with Richmond striking first. Jeff returned fire and scored. But then Ty Harris hit a 3. Then Richmond sank another unanswered bucket. The Bronchos fouled, which sent Richmond to the charity stripe. Both buckets landed and brought about a tie game at 60-60! Jeff and Richmond would trade shot back and forth, tying at 63, 65, and finally at 70. Jordan Stolle then shot a 3, putting Richmond in the lead with 1:08 left in the game, forcing Lafayette Jeff to call a time out. After the time out, Jeff had the basketball. As they came into the forecourt, Ty Harris stole the basketball, passed to Tytan Newton who was promptly fouled by Ashton Beaver, which sent Newton to the line for the 1 and 1. Newton made both shots to bring the score to 75-70, as Jeff pushed fast into their court. The Bronchos shot behind the arc, airballed the shot, and in the ensuing commotion, Cleevas Craig fouled with 37.1 left on the clock. The foul happened on the floor, and Richmond still had some to give, so Jeff had to inbound the ball. They inbounded to Braxton Barnhizer, who missed a 3 shot from NBA distance, and was promptly rebounded by Richmond. Matthew Jones fouled Koream Jett to the line with 27.9 seconds left in the game. Koream Jett made both of his shots to bring the score to 77-70. Cleevas Craig fouled Brooks Barnhizer in the next possession, giving Craig his 4th foul, and sending Barnhizer to the line for 2. He missed his first free throw but hit the 2nd. Richmond would inbound on the next possession to a Lafayette Jeff full court press. Brooks Barnhizer’s then fouled Ty Harris to stop the clock, sending Ty to the line for the 1 and 1. Harris missed his free throw attempt with 16 seconds left on the clock, and the ball in the Broncho hands. The Bronchos came into their forecourt, passed the ball around, set up a shot, and took the layup with 6 seconds left on the clock. The score now 77-73. Jordan Stolle, set to inbound for the Red Devils, looked for an open Ty Harris, but as he inbounded the ball, Braxton Barnhizer cut in front of Harris, caught the ball and popped it up for 2. The score was now 77-75 with 2.2 on the clock. Everyone in Marion Crawley Athletic Center were now on their feet. Could Lafayette Jeff force overtime? Could Richmond complete the upset? Only 2.2 seconds remained, and Richmond would have the ball again. Jordan Stolle was the man responsible for inbounding the ball again. The officials blew the whistle to start the possession, Stole struggled to find an open man, and just before a 5 second violation was called, Coach Baz made a game saving call for a Time-Out. And it was close, so close the fans started booing, demanding that the violation be called. After the time out, it was Stole, yet again, the man in charge of inbounding the ball. As the official blew the whistle to initiate play, Richmond, who were lined up on the center logo, scattered and Tytan Newton was able to break free of his defender to pull the ball in. He was promptly fouled by Ashton Beaver with 1.3 left on the board. That would send Newton to the line for 2. Newton nailed his first free throw to make the score 78-75. And then, with ice in his veins, Newton nailed his last free throw to seal the game. The Red Devils, down 2 guys, down by 12 points in the 3rd quarter, came back and defeated the Lafayette Jeff Bronchos.
When interviewing Coach Bennett about the game, he said, the guys know to trust in Coach Baz, and Baz told the team, Lafayette Jeff will allow them enough possessions to come back, if they play Richmond Basketball. And Several 3s from Ty Harris, and Jordan Stole didn’t hurt either. With the victory, Richmond moves to 7-2 in the NCC, tied for 2nd place with Harrison, on a 10 game win streak, and on a roll. They have one more game left in the regular season before Sectional play, and as long as the guys trust in Coach, they could have a very fun month of March.
Final Score: 79-75