After losing to the Bears two times earlier in the season, the Lions knocked off Richland 58-53 Tuesday
For the first time since 2015 – a span stretching six basketball games – the Crocker Lions (12-11) have defeated the Richland Bears (9-9).
As has been the case recently, it came down to the wire. Tuesday's matchup, a 58-53 victory for the Lions at home, was a two-point contest with 55 seconds left.
With a double-overtime game in the Frisco League Tournament (the two teams went to OT in last year's Frisco Tournament too) and a seven-point game in the Iberia Tournament, Crocker coach Phillip Gambill said Crocker vs. Richland games are starting to develop a larger meaning.
“It's getting to be kind of a rivalry between us and them,” Gambill said. “It's a good rivalry. It's a clean, fun rivalry. Our kids come out on both sides, for them as well too, they come out and we always give each other our best shot.”
Such as the ones taken by Crocker senior Drayke Hair.
After both teams took turns going on runs in the first, Richland held a 14-12 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter until Hair knocked down a three from the top of the arc to give the Lions a one-point advantage going into the second.
“At the end of the first quarter I thought it was going to be a big shootout,” Gambill said. “I was proud of our guys because Richland jumped out on us and we called a timeout to regroup. I told them all, Look in my eyes. Everything is going to be fine. Let's just stick with what we're doing and everything is going to work out.”
Richland wasn't without big-time buckets from its No. 15 either.
Crocker went on an 11-1 run that spanned nearly three minutes and led 30-19 with 58 seconds left in the half.
As time ticked away and the Bears waited for the final shot it seemed the entire Lions' defense slid over to face senior Tanner Riddle. With three seconds on the clock, Riddle dropped in a three from the right wing as three defenders put their hands in his face.
Riddle finished with a team-high 15 points, which isn't surprising. What was, however, was junior Ben Russell putting up seven first-half points and 10 overall.
With Dillon Zeigenbein out Tuesday, along with two others, Richland coach Anthony Caruso needed Russell to put in some good minutes and that he did.
“He stepped up big,” Caruso said. “He's relatively inexperienced but he has a motor, he plays really hard, he goes and gives 100 percent every time he steps on the floor and he just has a knack for pulling down rebounds.”
A 12-4 run by the Bears tied the game up at 34 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
But another Hair straightaway triple, with the score tied at 36, beat the buzzer to give Crocker the lead heading into the final frame.
Then, officials huddled with the scorebook and clock keepers and took a point away from Richland saying they had signaled two points on a Riddle fadeaway jumper a little over two-and-a-half minutes earlier making the score 39-35.
There was no controversy over Riddle's three to open the fourth quarter, it was clear as day and made it a one-point game for the fourth time (it would happen on two more occasions going forward).
After Hair's fourth three broke the game's seventh, and final, tie Crocker never let go of the lead again.
About a minute later, a putback by Ethan Gan had the Lions up 55-51.
Ethan Fagre hit a layup but it took Richland a minute and 33 seconds to do so.
“That possession really helped us,” Gambill said. “It kind of let our guys get settled in, get in defensive position and communicate a little bit.”
Not to mention it took an awful lot of time off the clock. Which certainly wasn't the plan.
“We were trying to get downhill,” Caruso said. “We just wanted to try to get on the free-throw line and instead of trying to get on the free-throw line we...Here's the thing: We had two freshmen on the floor to end that game. One guy that's never played varsity before until Friday night. We had Dillon Zeigenbein out, our big guy, we had another starter out in Bryan Buckley due to sickness and we had our sixth man, Jordan Baldwin, out due to a fractured wrist. So, it came down to inexperience on that possession.”
Nathaniel “Squid” Combs broke loose on Crocker's ensuing possession and hit a layup with 33 seconds.
After a rushed Richland three from the volleyball line near midcourt didn't hit the rim, Ethyn Boorom was fouled and he split his free throws for the final scoring play and Hair intercepted a pass to end the game.
Crocker was led by Combs' 16 points. He was followed by Hair who had 14, Boorom, Adam Shockley and Logan Wright who each had eight and Blake Neuman added four.
Riddle paced Richland with 15 points. Ethan Ellis was next with 14, Fagre had 12, Russell 10 and Bridger Lobland two.
Up next, Crocker will host St. Elizabeth (7-12) on Friday and the Bears will hit the road the same day to play Licking (18-3).