Two teams remain unbeaten in the North Central Conference.
Count Richmond as one.
The Red Devils’ dominant third quarter laid the groundwork for their 2-0 start to the NCC — and helped Richmond dispatch rival Muncie Central 50-32 on Friday at Tiernan Center.
RHS, leading by seven to start the second half, scored the first 12 points of the third quarter.
It was academic after that.
“We take it very seriously,” junior Joel Okafor said of when the Bearcats come to town. “Coach (David) Cruse always tells us, every conference game, we have to take it serious.”
Serious enough to erase an early 11-6 deficit and end the first half with a 6-0 run.
Defense once again paid big dividends for the Devils. They forced Central into 19 turnovers, and Richmond scored seven baskets directly off Bearcat miscues.
Two of those came from Nick Thomas, who finished with six points.
“Defense was really important,” Thomas said. “We weren’t really good on the offensive end right away, so we had to have some defense to back us up and help us out.”
Okafor and Mike Tillman both netted nine to tie for team-high honors, with Davious Webster scoring eight and Isaiah Rader and Devin Thomas adding six points each.
Okafor and Tillman combined for the final six points of the first half.
Richmond, ranked 13th in Class 4A, improved to 10-1. The Red Devils were coming off a 49-42 victory last week at Jay County that saw them turn away a furious Patriot rally in the final seconds.
“It was a tough win at Jay County, and we come back to this and got a win,” Okafor said. “The past week before this game has been rough. Coach (Joe) Luce was not there two days because of his knee. But we still got the win.”
Luce, in his fifth season as Richmond’s head coach, had surgery this week for a torn meniscus.
He wasn’t the only one recuperating on the sidelines from a leg injury. Tyler Arens, 6-foot-8 senior for Central, was on crutches because of an ankle injury and did not play.
“Me being out this week is just an adjustment,” Luce said. “Our assistant coaches did a great job. (Rick) Wedlow and (Mark) Hinkey really stepped up and led practice this week. Our guys are veteran enough that it shouldn’t matter. But it’s just a different adjustment.
“I thought they responded well to that. I thought they responded well to just a test that is different, because this is a different game. North Central Conference games are different.”
The Red Devils responded to a strong start by Central’s Joe Williams.
Williams scored 11 of his game-high 13 points in the first quarter — and had them all by halftime — but Devin Thomas ended that first frame with an inside basket to put RHS ahead 14-13.
“We came out kind of slow,” Devin Thomas said. “The second half we came in and took over the game.”
Okafor grabbed six rebounds for Richmond, with Devin Thomas adding four. Zach Lett finished with four points and three rebounds.
Marcus Dukes led Central in rebounding with six. He also scored six points, with Darryl McKinney adding five.
With Richmond’s win over Central and Huntington North halting Anderson, the Red Devils and Marion are tied for first atop the NCC standings. The Class 3A No. 12 Bearcats fell to 5-3, 1-1.
“It’s one at a time,” Luce said. “It’s a fun obstacle to have every week, to face a conference opponent that you know is going to bring their best. We don’t have anybody in our conference that is not going to play a very good game, or give us a test.”
Richmond’s next NCC test is next Friday at Logansport. The Berries fell 98-64 to Marion on Friday.
“We’re focused on trying to win the NCC,” Nick Thomas said. “We’ll be practicing hard next week to get another win in the NCC.”