DIXFIELD — Riley Robinson and his Dirigo boys’ basketball teammates say they didn’t talk about his pursuit of 1,000 career points at all this week.
That’s OK, because everybody else picked up the slack.
If you missed the flyer with his picture and a breakdown of the mathematics on it as you paid admission Thursday night at Defoe Gymnasium, likely you noticed the handwritten “countdown clock” on the wall at the end of the court soon after finding a seat in the grandstands.
“Everyone’s been giving me crap at school. ‘Riley, is it going to happen tonight?’ Calling me ‘1,000’ and stuff,” Robinson said.
Who knows what they’ll be calling Robinson by the time he’s a senior? Robinson rolled past the milestone in the sixth game of his junior season – only the 46th of his career – with 36 points in a 79-53 victory over Monmouth.
It was the fifth consecutive win for Dirigo (5-1) and second successive loss for Monmouth (3-3) in MVC play.
Robinson needed 10 points. He hit double digits by sinking the first of two free throws with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter. The 6-foot-2 forward also finished with five steals, five rebounds and three assists.
“He’s probably averaged about 12 points in the first quarter. That seems to be his quarter,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “Over three years he’s scored a lot of points, obviously, but the big thing these past four games has been his passing. He’s really been moving the ball. He’s unselfish. He had eight assists the other night.”
Kaine Hutchins added eight points for the Cougars. Gavin Arsenault and Joe Casey each chipped in seven. Robinson and Hutchins each hit two of Dirigo’s seven 3-pointers.
Hunter Richardson chalked up 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Mustangs, who cut a 41-20 halftime deficit to 13 points in the third period before the Cougars sped away. Luke Thombs and Avery Amero notched nine points apiece.
Robinson scored 14 of Dirigo’s first 16 points out of the gate, and Dirigo never trailed.
“It’s incredible. He brings so much energy,” Casey said. “He’s fun to play with. He makes everybody around him better.”
In a 66-second span, Robinson strung together a put-back for a traditional 3-point play, a spinning layup, and a steal and coast-to-coast drive to hit 999.
Amero scored at the other end before Robinson drew another foul underneath the basket. He sank both resulting free throws, and the game was stopped for a presentation from athletic director Mike Hutchins and photos with Magnusson and members of the Robinson family.
“He gets his shots, but I don’t remember him taking bad shots,” Magnusson said. “They’re usually not contested or forcing things up. A lot of it too, he’s had some great guys passing him the ball. It’s a team thing. They know who to find.”
In addition to Magnusson, whom he said “played a huge role” in his success, Robinson thanked his AAU coaches, Rick Moore and Kevin Black, and his parents, James and Marcy.
“They cart me around everywhere,” Robinson said. “Driving me home from Connecticut on Sunday nights. We put in some hours on the road.”
Seven different Cougars scored in the second quarter, when Dirigo held Monmouth to 2-for-9 shooting.
The Cougars committed only four turnovers in the first half while forcing 13.
“I thought we played good defense and kept our momentum going,” Casey said. “Our bench was fired up. We wanted to put it away early.”
“We still have a couple letdowns defensively, giving up a layup here and there, but we are so much better defensively than last year,” Magnusson added. “They’ve really bought into playing great defense and pressuring the ball. Then you look offensively, 79 points, and we shot the ball terrible. That’s the worst we’ve shot it all year, so that shows us that we’ve got to be doing some things right to still score 79.”
Robinson became the ninth Dirigo athlete and only the third boy to top 1,000 points, joining Doug Clark and Tom Knight.
Both have their uniforms encased on the wall overlooking the Cougars’ bench. At his current pace, Robinson would break Knight’s boys’ record of 1,326 this season, with a year in hand.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” Robinson said. “We’re getting into the groove of things. I think we’re playing good basketball right now.”