Richmond already has No. 8.
Now, the Red Devils want No. 3 — as in a third outright boys basketball championship in the North Central Conference.
Kokomo is the last team standing in the way of the Red Devils and their first outright conference championship since 1988. The Wildkats travel to Tiernan Center for an 8 p.m. tip-off Friday.
RHS, ranked eighth in the Class 4A Associated Press poll and 10th in the coaches poll, is 16-2 overall, 5-0 in the NCC. Kokomo is 12-6, 3-2.
The Red Devils can do no worse than share the conference championship. They locked up at least a piece of the title, the eighth in program history, with a 57-35 win over Anderson on Feb. 7.
Marion is 4-1 in the NCC and the only other team that can claim part of the championship.
“Our guys have earned the right to be in that position,” said RHS coach Joe Luce. “They’ve had a great season.
“They’ve stepped up all year. They’ve played well in big games. We’re looking forward to Friday, a great crowd and a good opponent. Kokomo is a team that has been on top of the North Central Conference the last couple of years.”
The Wildkats are also a team on a hot streak.
That coincides with the return of senior Tayler Persons. Kokomo has won seven straight, six of those featuring Persons, who returned in a 68-48 victory over Anderson on Jan. 31.
Persons, a Northern Kentucky recruit, tore his ACL during the 2013 football season. He is averaging 18.3 points per game, and has scored in double figures in all six of his games this season.
“I think they probably are stronger because of him being out in the beginning of the season. They had to learn how to play without him,” Luce said. “Guys stepped up and learned to play different roles. Once he got back, it took them to another level.
“He is a very good player. He is an Indiana All-Star in my opinion. I hope the injury doesn’t keep him from that. We’re looking forward to competing against him.”
Erik Bowen averages 14.1 points for the ‘Kats, with Demarius Warren adding 11.5 and Mykal Cox 11.1.
Kokomo is coming off a 61-48 road win over McCutcheon last Saturday. The Wildkats also stopped Logansport 74-54 last week.
Mike Tillman leads the Red Devil offense with 16.2 points per game, with Joel Okafor averaging 9.2 and Davious Webster 8.9.
Richmond halted Warren Central 64-52 and Indianapolis Crispus Attucks 85-65 last week. The Red Devils have won eight of their past nine games.
“It’s important to win that,” RHS senior Devin Thomas said of taking the NCC title outright.
Richmond last won a conference title in 2002, sharing the championship with Anderson. Richmond’s two outright titles came in 1942-43 and 1987-88. RHS also had championships in 1969-70, 1970-71, 1975-76 and 1976-77.
“I just hope that people will come out and support our guys and be a part of a great evening,” Luce said. “I look forward to hopefully some of the guys who have played on the last championship team, 2002, being out there. That will mean a lot. Markous Jewett (RHS grad and member of 2002 team) was part of our program as a coach and meant a lot to our guys.
“It’s important for our guys to see those guys who have been there and done that. Just any connection we can get to the past is a big deal. We look forward to seeing a lot of those familiar faces.”