Richmond won’t wait long to take its first sectional step.
The Red Devils open Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Castle at 7 p.m. Tuesday, facing off with Mt. Vernon (Fortville), a newcomer to the field.
It will be the second time in less than two weeks for the seventh-ranked Red Devils and Marauders to meet. Richmond halted Mt. Vernon 47-34 on Feb. 22 in Fortville.
“Being familiar with them I think will be a benefit,” said RHS coach Joe Luce. “I don’t think they probably played as well as what they’ll play on Tuesday. They’ll be better, as I think we’ll be better.”
The winner advances to Friday’s semifinal round at New Castle Fieldhouse to take on Greenfield-Central (5-17) at 6 p.m.
The opening round continues Wednesday with Anderson (9-12) facing defending champion Pendleton Heights (14-7) at 6 p.m., and host New Castle (8-12) taking on Connersville (13-9).
The championship is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s going to be a very good tournament,” Luce said. “We just want to take care of ourselves, take it one game at a time. We’re looking forward to competing against Mt. Vernon, and possibly participating in a championship game and getting over that hump.”
Richmond has won 62 total sectional titles, with the last coming in 1996.
The Red Devils made it to the final of the New Castle tournament in 2011 and 2012, falling both times to Pendleton Heights. The Arabians also ousted Richmond in last year’s sectional.
“Rebounding in particular (will be a key),” said RHS senior Zach Lett. “Also, we have to make our layups.
“We just have to fix that stuff and make sure we’re focused going in.”
Richmond is 3-0 against the sectional field, also earning victories over Connersville and Anderson.
The Red Devils’ trip to Fortville came one night after RHS clinched its first outright North Central Conference title since 1988 with an 81-73 win over Kokomo.
The Red Devil defense took over in the second half against the Marauders. Mt. Vernon kept close in the first half, tying the game 12-12 after one quarter and trailing by four at halftime.
Richmond extended its lead to 11 by the start of the fourth quarter, though, and junior Davious Webster scored nine of his game-high 15 points in the final frame to close the door.
“They definitely did not see us at our best, just from a mental focus standpoint,” Luce said. “We made some great plays, and Davious played well in the fourth quarter, but ultimately we weren’t the complete team that we’ve been.”
Mt. Vernon has been without senior C.J. Coleman, a UNC-Greensboro recruit who broke his ankle in February.
Sophomore Michael Thompson had 12 points and nine rebounds to lead Mt. Vernon against the Red Devils. The Marauders split to end their season, defeating Westfield 69-47 before falling at Yorktown 56-43 on Friday to finish 9-13 for the regular season.
“While they’re young, I think they are very well coached and I think they play extremely hard and have a definite plan of attack,” Luce said of the Marauders. “Our guys walked out of there with some respect for them. I think that helps that we go in knowing we have to play well to get a good win.”
Senior Mike Tillman leads Richmond with 16.4 points per game, while Webster averages 9.3 and fellow junior Joel Okafor scores 8.8.
Tillman scored a game-high 20 points this past Friday as the Red Devils put the finishing touches on their 19-2 regular season with an 86-46 victory over Indianapolis Manual at Tiernan Center.
“It was a good experience,” Tillman said of playing Mt. Vernon recently. “We know what they do, they know what we do.”