NEW CASTLE, Ind.
Richmond’s defense did it again Friday night.
And, once again, the Red Devils put themselves in position to play for a title.
Richmond advanced to its third sectional final in four years by rolling to a 70-31 victory over Greenfield-Central in the semifinal round of Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Castle Fieldhouse.
The Red Devils’ opponent in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. final? The same team that’s ousted them from the past three postseasons — Pendleton Heights.
“It was disappointing we didn’t get it done,” RHS junior Joel Okafor said of previous sectional tournaments. “This year, that is one of our goals. What we have to do is be ourselves and play our game.”
What the seventh-ranked Red Devils have been this season is balanced on offense and dominant on defense.
Friday night was no different.
Richmond, trailing 11-8 after the opening period, limited the Cougars to five points in the second quarter.
The Red Devil lead stood at 23-16 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, Richmond pushed that advantage to double digits, 43-20.
“We were just thinking pick up the defense, bring energy and just stay focused,” said Richmond’s Davious Webster. “We knew they were going to try and hold the ball. We just talked to each other and we just wanted to stay in the game.”
RHS controlled the game from the second quarter on.
The Red Devils started that second frame with an 8-0 run. They ended it with seven straight points.
Richmond’s 9-0 run to start the second half made it 32-16 and was capped by a pair of free throws from Abdul Shabazz with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Greenfield scored just four points in the third, making them less than a minute apart.
The rest was all Devils.
“Obviously they kind of slowed us down in the first half,” Okafor said. “We stayed in the game. We played together and we stayed in the game.
“Defense has been our key this season. Defense obviously helps us bring our offense. Another thing, being unselfish.”
That was evident Friday. Richmond scored 70 points, but the Red Devils spread the offense around so much that not a single player finished in double figures.
Devin Thomas led with nine points, while Webster, Isaiah Rader and Zach Lett finished with eight each.
Kendal Baker and Mike Tillman each added seven points and Shabazz, Okafor and Auntonio Brown had six apiece.
Bryce Austin and Tommy Luce also scored for the Red Devils (21-2).
“It’s important to get there,” RHS coach Joe Luce said of reaching the final. “You can’t win if you don’t get there. That was the key, to take care of business tonight. I thought Greenfield played very well in the first couple of quarters, and then got a little bit tired and worn down.
“Our kids made some adjustments and defensively did a much better job of matching up against their press-breaker and played a good second half.”
Brown had a game-high six rebounds, with Nick Thomas adding five, Devin Thomas four and Lett three.
“We fed the post a lot,” said the 6-foot-9 Lett. “They (the Cougars) just guarded our guards really tight. We couldn’t get open shots in the first half. Once we started getting the ball inside in the second half, I feel like that really opened up for us so we could play our whole game.”
Tate Hall netted 11 points to lead Greenfield-Central (5-18). RHS had not played Greenfield since the season opener in 2010-11.
That was also the year Richmond advanced to meet Pendleton Heights in a sectional final for the first time. RHS and Pendleton met again in 2012, and the Arabians defeated the Red Devils in last year’s semifinals.
Richmond, with 62 overall titles, seeks its first sectional championship since 1996.
“It was just another overall good performance for us,” Luce said of the semifinal win. “We got through it and we’re looking forward to (the championship game).”