RICHMOND — After missing what would have been the go-ahead layup moments earlier, Spruce Mountain’s Andrew Shaw wanted one more shot.
Thanks to the hustle of teammate Tate Walton, who won a scramble for the ensuing rebound and got a timeout, Shaw got another shot, and redemption
Shaw faked a handoff on the inbounding play, turned and drove the hoop and made sure he converted with 17 seconds left to give Spruce Mountain the lead. Mason Shink’s steal under Richmond’s hoop as time ran out preserved a thrilling 49-48 Phoenix win in a battle of unbeaten Mountain Valley Conference newcomers on Friday night.
“Coach (Scott Bessey) drew up a play for me and I just executed it, thanks to my teammates,” Shaw said.
“It’s a fake handoff,” Bessey said. “It’s actually the same exact play Caulin Parker scored on to give us a one-point lead against Wells last year. I thought he spun too early because you’re hoping that his player bites on that fake handoff, but he took off and spun before the handoff even happened.”
Both teams went into the game with matching 3-0 records in their new league (Richmond is an associate member. Spruce returned after a three-year stint in the KVAC). Shink and Kayle Stewart led the Phoenix with 14 points apiece.
Matt Rines paced Richmond with 14 points while Zach Small added 12 points and five assists.
“They’re really good,” Shaw said. “They play really fast and so do we. We’re used to the fast pace. We have a lot of conditioning in practice, so it’s routine for us.”
Spruce led, 40-33, before the Bobcats started the fourth quarter with seven straight points, capped by Small spotting Kendrick on a backdoor cut for a layup.
Richmond eventually took the lead on a Rines drive and a free throw by Dan Stewart (five points, 17 rebounds) that made it 46-43 with 2:33 to go.
After a pair of Shink free throws made it a one-point game again, Small scored on the baseline for a 48-45 lead.
Brett Frey pulled the Phoenix back within on with 59 seconds left, then, following a Richmond miss, set up Shaw with a beautiful bounce pass on the break that the junior forward handled cleanly in stride but couldn’t convert.
After Walton secured the rebound and the time out, Stewart crouched in the lane with his head in his hands.
“I missed it and I wanted to redeem myself,” Shaw said.
“We played a Class B school and gave up 49 points. We played decent defense,” Richmond coach Phil Houdlette said. “Offensively, those guys are deep and physical and they make you work harder. So you work and you work and you work to just get a basket in.”
Neither team shot the ball well, but Spruce hit more of its shots from beyond the three-point arc (5-for-15 in the first half) and took good care of the ball (seven turnovers for the game) to lead 27-22 at halftime. The main thing that kept the margin from being any wider was yeoman work on the offensive boards by Stewart, Small and Casey Gorman (nine points, eight rebounds).
“The glass was destroying us,” Bessey said. “That’s going to be a problem all year is our rebounding, and they took advantage of it. But a road win is a good win. They’re going to win a bunch of games so it’s going to be worth a ton of Heal points.”
Richmond came out in a 1-2-2 zone in the third quarter and dared Spruce to shoot over the top. A pair of three-pointers by Shink and one by Jordy Daigle helped the Phoenix add to their lead.