Thursday night, the Red Devils traveled to Brookville for their final game of the regular season. Both the Red Devils and the Wildcats of Franklin County High School had just won upset victories the Friday before, and were looking for a final victory to head into Sectional play with momentum.
The Red Devils would strike first, nailing a 3 off the tip, and the lead never changed during the entire game. The Red Devils did try a few new plays, and there was a bit of miscommunication during the first quarter, but after the 2nd quarter started, the Red Devils firmly planted themselves in the driver seat and drove all the way to the finish line. The Red Devil’s largest point differential was 14 points, hitting that number 3 times, during the 2nd quarter, and late in the 4th. Give credit to Franklin County, they hung right with the Red Devils and made it a game, somewhat lopsided but a game non the less. They never allowed Richmond to comfortably run away with the game.
One of the things learned from this game, is to not get comfortable. The Red Devils know they can overcome adversity. Heck, they’ve done that since the beginning of February. But, now that March is here, any team can win at any moment. And the loser? Pack your bags, the ride ends. This game hopefully illustrated to the team that they must play the full 32 minutes of basketball. If this Red Devil team does that, then this March could be a very fun one!
Final Score 50-36
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
Friday night the Kokomo Wildkats came to Tiernan bound and determined to ruin Richmond’s Valentine’s night. Richmond started off slow, allowing Kokomo to strike first. In fact, Richmond played Kokomo’s tempo throughout most of the first quarter, before starting to kick on the jets. They finished the quarter 11-7. Once the 2nd quarter kicked off, and Kokomo hit a quick bucket, Richmond kicked on the Jets and never looked back. They finished the half up by 10, the 3rd up by 17, and won by 26. 62-36.
Not only did Richmond find their groove with Ty Harris as a starter, but they also celebrated Coach Baz’s 200th Career win, in their final night at the Tiernan Center this season.
The very next night, The Red Devils hit the road to Logansport, their farthest road trip by one mile. (Harrison is the next furthest, followed by McCutcheon and Lafayette Jeff) The Berry Bowl, home to Felix the Cat, was anything but hospitable, as the Berries wanted to cool a Red-Hot Red Devils team, that was on an 8 game win streak.
It appeared, that the Berries came prepared to extinguish Richmond, as they commanded the 1st quarter. The quarter ended 8-5 with the Berries in the lead. We use the expression that “the teams are almost like boxers, feeling each other out in the first round.” That’s exactly what the Red Devils were doing, and they started to command the hardwood, and forced Logansport to play Richmond’s game. The Red Devils went into intermission up by 11 28-17, finished the 3rd up by 15 42-27, and defeated the Berries up 20 70-50.
In both games, the JV squad came out to finish both games, although they came out a bit earlier in the Kokomo game. Both games taught the Red Devils a lesson: They must play a full 4 quarters of a game. They can’t let off the gas at all, or else their win streak could end. After pulling a victory in Logansport, they had just one more NCC rival to play, and that team is arguably the hardest team they have faced all year. But on a 9 game win streak, this Red Devil team is ready for the challenge.
Final score Kokomo: 62-36
Final score Logansport: 70-50
Thursday, the Red Devils made the trip to Anderson to face the Indians who, just like Muncie Central, are North Central Conference rivals and a potential sectional opponent. The young Indians ball team had only won one game before Thursday but looking at the scores of those games, hadn’t been blown out. In fact, several games were very close. Also, for the Red Devils, they would be without Drew Kroft and Jordan Stole. The Devils had their work cut out for them.
Richmond’s starters included Rafael Deane and Ty Harris filling in for Kroft and Stole. That wasn’t even the strangest incident to start this game. Anderson was called for a Technical Foul before the game even tipped. We were never clued into what exactly happened, but Richmond started out with Harris at the free throw line shooting 2. He hit one to start the game. After a few Richmond buckets, Anderson started a fierce attack. The young Indian team, who had a chip on their shoulder wanted to prove to the Red Devils that they had the drive to win. Richmond and Anderson went back and forth throughout the first half, and went into intermission 23-22, with the Devils in a slight advantage.
The 2nd half, fortunes for the Red Devils started to improve, as they started a slow drive pulling away from the Indians on the scoreboard. Richmond’s upperclassmen, proving to the underclassmen on both teams what discipline was. Passing around the arc until shots opened up, OR until the perfect opportunity to drive the lane presented itself. With about a minute left in the game, and Richmond up 66-47, Tyton Newton grabbed a rebound, and took it into the front court. And with the Indians looking dejected, he allowed the clock to expire, giving Richmond it 7th win in a row, and 12th on the season.
This victory was huge for the Red Devils. Not only did it extend their win streak, but it proved that the Red Devils could win even when the chips were stacked against them. They defeated the 4th possible sectional opponent they’ve encountered this season. This team has four more games before the post season starts, and if they continue to trust in Coach Baz, and in each other, they could have a fun month of March.
Final score 66-47
Saturday Night a Golden Falcons team came to the Tiernan Center, determined to end Richmond’s win streak. A Golden Falcons team, that on January 18th was down 28 points to Blackford starting the 4th quarter, forced overtime and won 98-95. A team, that like Richmond, could come from behind to ensure a victory. This was also a team that brought a legitimate threat to Cleevas Craig. Payton Sparks. This game was also Senior night, so Coach Baz started his Seniors, which were the normal starting five, minus Drew Kroft, replacing him with Senior Rafael Deane.
The tip went the way of Richmond, but Tytan Newton missed the first shot, and Winchester came down and scored first with a 3. Richmond grabbed a bucked and Winchester returned for another 3. Craig was able to knock in a couple more shots before Richmond took the lead midway through the first quarter, and never looked back. The big issue that Richmond had to address were fouls, especially with Deane and Craig.
One of the things Richmond has been guilty of this season is cooling off in the third quarter. The cool off didn’t happen as Richmond kept the intensity throughout the third and fourth quarter. In fact, Winchester tried a full court press to stop Richmond, and Tytan Newton dissected it like a surgeon. All seemed well until the 4th quarter.
Midway through the 4th quarter with the Red Devils up by 15, Drew Kroft attempted a windmill dunk, as he came down, he landed hard. The training staff checked out his knee and were able to help him off the court. Unfortunately, there was still almost 4 minutes of basketball left to play, so Ty Harris was called upon to finish out for Kroft. While he couldn’t go back into the game, Drew did come back out with an iced knee to support the team as the sealed the victory. As of this writing, the extent of the injury is unknown, but our hearts and prayers go out to Drew, and the hopes that it isn’t anything serious.
Richmond knocked of Winchester, bringing the season to 11-7, and a 6-game win streak, the best since the 2014/2015 season.
Final score 67-51
Friday night the Harrison Raiders invaded the Tiernan Center confident Richmond would be just another speed bump in the road. This was a Harrison team that had already defeated McCutcheon, Arsenal Tech, Kokomo, and Anderson in the conference. In fact, Harrison had only lost 2 games, both to Lafayette Jeff, once in a tournament, the second in North Central Conference play.
The tip went Richmond’s way, and they scored first. Harrison was able to put up a field goal and a three before Richmond started to answer, and then the Red Devils kicked up the gas. They ended the first quarter 17-10, and the half 27-19. There were a few fouls both ways, but overall it was one of the best halves Richmond played all season.
The third quarter would be a different story. The Red Devils only scored 6 points in the 3rd, compared to Harrison’s 13. That would put Harrison within 1 point of the Devils to end the 3rd quarter. The first points of the 3rd were a 3 sunk by Harrison. The Red Devils had been playing so well, they couldn’t allow Harrison to snag the win away. After a timeout, Coach Baz had the team play Richmond basketball. After trading leads a few times, Richmond hopped back into the lead. And with just seconds left on the clock Koream Jett was fouled. He went to the line with Richmond up 47-46 and sank two free throws. The upset had happened! Richmond defeated Harrison and extended their win streak to a season high 5 games. Harrison's 10 game win streak was broken! The well-deserved win couldn’t overshadow a great Winchester team that would be visiting Richmond the very next night…
Final Score 49-46.