RICHMOND – Last season Kokomo clinched an outright, undefeated North Central Conference championship on its home floor against Richmond. A year later it was time for the Class 4A No. 8-ranked Red Devils to return the favor on their home court, the Tiernan Center.
For the first time in 26 years Richmond (17-2, 6-0) is the outright champion of the NCC in basketball. The Red Devils broke open a tie game after halftime with solid 3-point shooting and free throw shooting to earn an 81-73 victory over the Wildkats.
“We played a really good team on their home floor and cut it to five with 3:23 left,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “That’s a lot of time and we also had a 3 that just missed that would have cut it to three later. We had a lot of opportunities, but I felt we really struggled offensively in the second quarter.”
Kokomo and Richmond played a fast-paced first quarter where Demarius Warren tied it at 19-19 for Kokomo with a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left. A total of 12 different players combined scored in the opening period as both teams got seemingly everyone involved.
The Red Devils used the 3-pointer to take control early in the second quarter as Joel Okafor and Davious Webster connected on back-to-back triples in the first 52 seconds of the second half to put Richmond in front for good.
“They’re a top-10, maybe a top-five team in the state and you really have to play well to beat them on their floor, McCauley said. “Offensively when they hit shots like that they gain a lot of confidence and that really hurt us.”
Richmond hit a total of 10 3-pointers on the night, but eight of them came in the first half. Kendal Baker connected on four of those eight, including one just before the halftime buzzer that put Richmond in front 40-31. It was Richmond’s fifth triple of the second quarter.