Richmond closed the door on its 2013-14 boys basketball season Saturday.
But, this season for the Red Devils opened doors for future teams.
This year’s Richmond squad won titles, ended long droughts and joined elite company when it comes to program history.
The Red Devils won their first North Central Conference championship in 12 years, then made it their first outright NCC crown in 26 seasons. They followed that by ending a sectional-less streak that dated back to 1996, and winning the program’s first title since the advent of class basketball.
“It was very important to get Richmond back on the map,” senior Abdul Shabazz said following the Red Devils’ 80-55 loss to Indianapolis Tech in the Class 4A Southport regional. “It’s the first of many more teams to come, and this just opened the door for more teams to come in and repeat the process, and hopefully be better.”
RHS ended its season ranked seventh in Class 4A and ninth in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll. The Red Devils were 22-3 and only the eighth team in the program to win the NCC outright.
Richmond has won 91 games in Joe Luce’s five years as head coach.
Luce talked about how this year’s Red Devil group cleared a hurdle.
“They (players in the future) can believe and now tangibly they can see that’s a possibility,” Luce said. “They’re capable of doing that, our basketball program is, and we’ll go back to work here in a few weeks and get our guys where they need to be as far as AAU and workouts and start improving,”
Richmond graduates Mike Tillman, Kendal Baker, Zach Lett, Shabazz, Nick Thomas and Devin Thomas. Tillman was the team’s leading scorer, and all six played critical roles in providing RHS with depth.
“A special group this year that I can’t say enough about,” Luce said. “A great team, as good a team as I’ve been associated with. Just very proud of them.”
Tech will be at Tiernan Center on Saturday to face Bloomington North in a Class 4A semistate game. The Tech-Bloomington North showdown will follow the Class 3A semistate game between Greensburg and Guerin Catholic, which tips off at 4 p.m.
Division I recruits Trey Lyles (Kentucky) and Jeremie Tyler (Ball State) led Tech in Saturday’s regional semifinal. Lyles, a Mr. Basketball candidate, scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Tyler poured in a game-high 23 points.
Joel Okafor paced Richmond with 13 points. The junior guard played most of the second half with four fouls.
“I think we just need to stay focused, as we’ve been since last year,” Okafor said. “Keep working hard. … Take care of ourselves. … That way we’ll be able to get back here.”