WENATCHEE The Richland boys basketball team had all but wrapped up their first trip to state since 2008 on Saturday at Wenatchee High School when Bombers coach Earl Streufert took each of his starters off the floor, allowing each of them to bask in a raucous round of applause from the Richland fans.
With just over a minute remaining in Richlands 68-39 victory over Stadium, off they came: Jacob DeVries, Mason Hilty, Steven Beo, and a few seconds later, Payton Radliff and Nathan Streufert. Together, they got to watch their teammates close out an emotional win that allowed them to fulfill their season dream.
When junior guard Drew McCullough drilled a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, it hardly factored into the final outcome, but the starting five cheered wildly from the bench, their smiles as wide as the nearby Columbia River gorge.
This is what they wanted all year: To get there as a team.
On Saturday, they did just that. Theyll be rewarded for it with a spot in the Tacoma Dome come Thursday.
This is a special group from top to bottom. They really do pull for each other, and they want whats best for each other, Streufert said. This team has kind of re-energized me that way.
Four of the five Bombers starters scored in double figures, led by Radliffs 15 points, and Richland applied the kind of constant ball pressure its known for, forcing the Tigers into 17 turnovers. The Bombers denied Stadiums top player, all-Narrows guard Eric Anderson-Connolly, holding him to just six points.
Thats the best team weve played since Curtis, Stadium coach Doug Cocké said. If you dont talk on defense and you dont handle their heavy ball pressure, theyll tear you up.
Richland (19-4) trailed 9-8 after the first 4 minutes, but Radliff drilled a 3-pointer at the 3:24 mark that put the Bombers ahead for good. Nathan Streufert added four points during a 9-3 run that put Richland ahead 15-12 after one quarter.
It was a long week waiting for this to happen, coach Streufert said. Waiting was the hardest part.
Defensively, the Bombers kept Stadium from finding its tempo, keeping the Tigers off balance with tight man-to-man defense. Stadium had a size advantage with four players at 6-foot-4 or better, but Richland still found a way to outrebound them 41-30.
Coach told us in the locker room that this is our time, Radliff said. Its better (than I imagined). I cant wait to get (to state).
The WIAA will announce state pairings today.
The second quarter is where Richland really took control.
Radliff drilled another trey from the left wing, and Beo capped a 10-2 run by fighting through the lane for a bucket while dragging a defender with him. He got the call and sank the ensuing free throw for the and-one to put the Bombers up 25-14 with 3:27 left in the half.
Beo, a freshman who has been a starter from Day 1, reflected on playing on such a big stage for a state contender.
Its awesome. The guys have helped me out a lot against bigger opponents, Beo said after finishing with 13 points and six rebounds.
Richland held Stadium to just five field goals in the second and third quarters, taking a 46-23 lead into the fourth. Streufert, the Bombers 6-7 junior post, has been perhaps the teams strongest voice all season, and he spoke loud and clear against the Tigers.
Streufert filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots. He provided two of the most memorable moments during the game, too.
With Richland ahead 18-12 in the second, Stadium forward Malik Mayeux was headed to the basket for what looked like an easy breakaway layin, but Streufert hustled in for the block, igniting the Bombers crowd.
Two minutes later, he took a pass from Hilty under the basket and threw down a two-handed jam that put Richland up 20-12.
This made my high school basketball career already, Streufert said. Weve just got to keep going. We cant look past anybody. We have to keep playing our game.
Lucious Brown led the Tigers with 14 points. Mayeux added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
STADIUM Anderson-Connolly 6, Strickland 4, Powers 2, Mayeux 10, Glackin-Coley 3, Tuttle, Bills, Laske, Budzisz, Moorehead, Anderson, Lucious Brown 14. Totals 15-47 16-22 39.
RICHLAND Payton Radliff 15, Jacob DeVries 13, Steven Beo 13, Hilty 7, Nathan Streufert 12, Broeske 3, Crandall, Baird, Perry, Wheeler, Miller. Totals 23-53 16-22 68.
Stadium 12 4 7 16 39
Richland 15 16 15 22 68
Highlights 3-pointers: S 1-10 (Brown), R 6-21 (Radliff 3, DeVries, Beo, McCullough); Rebounds: S 30 (Mayeux 10), R 41 (Hilty 8); Turnovers: S 17, R 13; Steals: S 6 (Mayeux 3), R 9 (Radliff 6); Blocks: S 4 (Mayeux 2), R 2 (Streufert 2); Streufert 7 assists.