There’s a new sense of urgency for the Richmond boys basketball team and it showed in last night’s game against Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
The Fighting Irish ended the Blue Devils’ season last year in overwhelming fashion, 77-42, and would go on to win a regional championship. This year, however, Richmond was able to come from behind and defeat the state-ranked team 58-53 on the road.
“In years past, if we had been in that situation, we probably would have lost by 15 or 20. But they’ve been there so it’s refreshing to know that they will keep on battling,” head coach Josh Presnell said. “I think we were forutante to beat a really good, dicsplined team at their place.”
After last week’s win over Algonac, the Blue Devils turned their attention to the Fighting Irish, ready to “earn their respect,” as Presnell said.
“We just kind of talked about how we want to go out and at the very least earn their respect, because when you get blown out by 40, you need to earn their respect,” he said. “We just wanted to go out and make sure they respected us by the end of the game, and I think we did that.”
“We were all ready for it. We preached that game for a whole week straight,” senior Karl Stevens said. “As soon as the Algonac game was over with, we went straight to Notre Dame Prep, worried about their offense, their defense, and what they were going to try to do.”
Richmond’s one-point lead after the first quarter dissipated as Prep opened the second on an 8-0 run to lead 19-12.
By halftime, the Blue Devils cut the deficit to six at 30-24.
“The first half was pretty tough for us...We had to cut the lead going into halftime, and that’s what we did,” Stevens said. “I was really on my teammates in the locker room and then our teammate Kyle [Bartolomucci] was the one keeping everyone’s heads up in the game, so I think that’s when we really started to tune our game up a little bit more.”
Presnell said slowing the game down and being more disciplined against Prep’s intense press would be key, which his team was able to do in the second half.
Sophomore Trey Graham hit a big 3-pointer on the first possession of the third to make the score 30-27. As the quarter drew to a close, Stevens made a three to make it 39-36, and then he tied the game 39-39 with 6:30 to go in the fourth. He would score again on a quick putback, giving Richmond first lead since the first quarter at 41-39.
Tied 43-43 with three minutes to go, Richmond went on a 6-0 run to gain its largest lead. From there, it became a matter of making free throws. In the last 90 seconds, the Blue Devils went 9-for-10 from the charity stripe to score their final nine points and secure the victory.
“They’ve been really working on that. They knew that was a weak point for us last year so they’ve been shooting a ton of free throws. It makes me feel better that we can knock free throws down late in the game,” Presnell said.
“I think that comes with being seniors too, I don’t know if the moment’s too big for them now.”
After starting all underclassmen last year, Richmond’s roster now holds seven seniors who are ready to make this their best season yet.
“Every year before tryouts, we always make a list of our goals, like a bucket list of what we want to accomplish, and I feel like this year is the biggest year,” Stevens said. “For a lot of us, it’s our last year so we really want to make a statement for us and our team and just have a good last year for our coach.”
Starting the season with 4-0 with a win over one of the state’s top teams is one way to make a statement.
Stevens led the team in the victory with 21 points and 20 rebounds. Fellow seniors D’Quan Haskins and Marcus Thompson added 14 and eight points, respectively. Haskins also had four rebounds and Thompson had six assists and five steals. Graham added seven points on the night.
“Karl is just something different. Everything’s quiet with him, he doesn’t really say a whole lot, he just goes out and plays,” Presnell said. “He does everything. He’s not selfish, just does a really good job.”
“Honestly , it feels good but I feel like enough isn’t enough,” Stevens said, “so every day I just keep working and try to perfect my shot and everything else even more.”
The Blue Devils will host Marysville next on Dec. 22, followed by a game against Capac on Dec. 29 in the SC4 Holiday Showcase. They'll resume league play against Imlay City on Jan. 5.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
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