Mike Tillman calls the Spartan Bowl a difficult place to play.
Richmond thrived in that environment during Friday’s second half.
Tillman scored all of his game-high 12 points over the final two quarters, and the Red Devils kept their perfect record intact with a 51-37 win over rival Connersville.
“It’s one of the toughest places in the state. Their fan base is incredible,” Tillman said. “They have a very good fan base, and they came out and they played hard. We just overcame it.”
The Red Devils had to overcome a hot Spartan start.
Connersville led 8-1 midway through the first quarter and 14-7 at the end of that period.
RHS chipped away. The Red Devils got more rebounds, drove to the basket and made it to the free-throw line.
Isaiah Rader scored six of his eight points in the second quarter as Richmond whittled the deficit down to 24-22 by halftime.
“He was a big difference tonight,” RHS coach Joe Luce said of Rader. “It’s going to be somebody like that each night. Isaiah showed he belonged, and had a fantastic evening.”
Much like the Red Devils’ fantastic second half.
Abdul Shabazz tied the game 24-all 30 seconds into the third quarter, the first of 11 straight points by the Red Devils.
Joel Okafor and Tillman had back-to-back steals and layups during that stretch, and when Okafor converted on another drive to the basket, Richmond was ahead 33-24 with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Connersville never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We just started playing our game — up tempo, pressure the ball, up and down the court,” Shabazz said. “That’s where we thrive at. That’s where we play our best. That’s how we pulled out the win.”
It’s the third straight victory for the Red Devils on their way to a 3-0 start.
Rader and Kendal Baker finished with eight points each, while Okafor netted seven and Shabazz scored six.
“Our offensive execution came together in the second half,” Tillman said.
Shabazz also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, with Zach Lett contributing four. Lett, Davious Webster, Auntonio Brown and Devin Thomas also scored for Richmond.
This was the first road game for the Red Devils.
“To go on the road and have that process of growing, I think we got through it and played a great second half,” Luce said.
Isaiah Easley led Connersville with 11 points, with Dezmen Rent scoring nine, all in the first half.
The Red Devil defense swarmed the Spartans over the final two quarters. Connersville had three field goals in the second half, the final of which came with less than a minute to play.
“Our best offense is our defense,” Shabazz said. ” … That’s how we play our game.”
Richmond takes its game on the road again tonight, this time to Louisville to face Taylor County (Ky.) as part of the Louisville High School HoopFest at Iroquois High School.
It’s the second in four straight road games for RHS. The Red Devils are at Huntington North to start North Central Conference play next Friday, followed by a trip to Ohio to meet Upper Arlington the next night.
“It’s good to have some numbers to back up their hard work,” Luce said of the 3-0 start. “They’re just on to the next one and hopefully we’ll be able to take care of business on the road. Looking forward to going to Louisville.”
Added Tillman: “We still have a lot to do. We have a tough trip to Kentucky (today). We’re looking forward to that. We’re going to forget about this game, and we’re going to come and play hard.”