Sectional win leaves lasting impression

Sectional win leaves lasting impression

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Sectional win leaves lasting impression

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George Griffith has at least one more good memory of New Castle Fieldhouse.

This year’s Red Devils saw to that.

Griffith, the legendary former Richmond boys basketball coach, led the Devils to the state championship in 1992. But, Griffith’s final game with the Red Devils came at New Castle, a regional loss to the Trojans in 1993.

Watching RHS win its first sectional title in nearly two decades on the same floor was a much more pleasant experience.

“I was nervous, and I usually don’t get nervous anymore,” Griffith said.

The Red Devils calmed those nerves in a big way.

Richmond ended the game with a 14-0 spurt, putting away Pendleton Heights for the first time in four straight postseason meetings, and ending the Arabians’ three-year reign as sectional champion.

The Red Devils’ 63-44 victory gave them their first sectional crown since 1996, and 63rd overall.

“They played really well. Joe (Luce, Richmond coach) had them really prepared,” Griffith said. “We had an advantage of speed and strength and depth, and we took care of it.

” … We lost two sectionals here. Sam (Alford) beat us and ended my career here. It’s a nice place to play, and I like it a lot better tonight, let’s say that.”

Another former RHS coach enjoyed the Devils’ most recent moment at the fieldhouse, too.

Chad Bolser, now the athletic director at Richmond High School, guided the Red Devils to their most recent North Central Conference title before this season’s outright championship.

He was all smiles as the Red Devils climbed the ladder and cut the Sectional 9 nets.

“I’m not sure I can articulate how proud I am of them and the program, and the efforts and sacrifices they make to do this,” Bolser said. “I’m thrilled for Joe and I’m thrilled for the kids, and everybody who works their tail off in that program. I couldn’t be happier.”

The Class 4A sectional crown was the latest triumph for Luce’s Red Devils.

Richmond claimed the program’s first NCC title in 12 years, then made it an outright championship when the Red Devils went undefeated in conference play for the first time since 1988.

“To do something nobody has done in (26) years, and then to turn around and do something else nobody’s done in a long (time), I don’t know how to explain it,” said RHS senior Abdul Shabazz.

“It’s the greatest team I’ve ever been a part of. The chemistry, how we work together, how we stick up for one another. … And trust. It’s the greatest team.”

Luce’s teams have fared well in his five years at Richmond.

The Red Devils have posted 91 wins in that time, with no less than 14 any given year. They’ve played in three sectional finals, competed for NCC titles and won 19 or more games three times.

Now, they’ve cleared that championship hurdle. Richmond won each of its sectional games by at least 15 points.

“It’s just a great feeling,” Luce said.

He heaped praise on the senior class of Shabazz, Mike Tillman, Nick Thomas, Devin Thomas, Zach Lett and Kendal Baker, all of whom have played critical roles in Richmond’s 22-2 season.

“I get to coach next year. I get to coach and do what I want to do professionally. Those guys (seniors), it’s their careers. Four years, and they’ve maximized that,”

Luce said. “Our senior class is fantastic and deserves everything that has come their way. It’s been a very, very good year and I think will continue on. We have a chance to win some more games and we’re looking forward to playing.”

Just as Red Devil fans look forward to watching their team face Indianapolis Tech on Saturday in the Southport regional.

“They’re a good team. We’re looking forward to it,” Baker said. “We’ve just got to play Red Devil basketball.”

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