(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
ESSEX -- When Risco took the floor against Richland on Friday it didn't take the Tigers long to realize they had their work cut out for them with Rebel senior Richard Forshee guarding the paint.
Forshee, listed at 6-11, towers over even the tallest Tiger by a good 11 inches, which meant plenty of easy inside buckets for the Rebels and limited second chances for Risco.
What the Tigers lacked in size, however, was more than made up for in athleticism as Risco continued to push the pace all the way to a 96-76 win.
"He's tough inside when you don't have anybody over six-foot tall," Risco head coach Brandon Blenkenship said of Forshee. "So we really didn't really worry about trying to stop him very much because we knew we couldn't.
"If he got it down there he was going to score. So we just really tried to force the issue on the tempo and tried to push the ball as quick as we could and try to get up as many shots as we could."
After falling behind 20-19, Risco's strategy started to pay dividends in the second quarter. Hitting seven of their 12 3-pointers of the night in the frame, four from Jordon Pavy alone, the Tigers were able to build a 45-34 lead going into the half.
Risco came out in the third and put up their best quarter of the night with 27 points, but were still out-paced in the frame by a 29-point effort from Richland.
Forshee led the Rebels' third quarter push with 17 points, scoring from the paint with just over two minutes left in the frame to close Richland back within three points.
It didn't take long for the Tigers (12-9) to answer by reeling off eight-straight points in the closing minutes of the half before a couple free throws from Forshee in the closing seconds, leaving the Rebels down 72-63 entering the fourth.
"We cut into Risco's lead a little in the third quarter," Richland head coach Matt Cline said. "We cut it down to maybe about three, then they got a steal or two and we got a little squirrelly and let it get away from us and it just snowballed on us."
Risco started out the fourth hitting their final two 3-pointers of the night and in less then two minutes pulled away 80-65.
One final push by Richland, a 5-1 run, had the Rebels back within 11 points with 4:37 to play, but after a quick Rebels timeout Risco went in to clock killing mode.
The Tigers kept the ball floating around the perimeter while burning off the clock until the Rebels were forced outside to defend. Once Richland came out Risco was able to drive inside for some easy lay ups.
"We decided to pull it out because we had about an 11-point lead there at the four minute mark," Blankenship said. "We tried to pull it out and make them come out and get us.
"It took them awhile to come out, but we burned a little clock and we knew once we brought them out we'd be more able to go around them."
Open lay ups on two-straight possessions allowed Risco to build their lead to 87-72 with two minutes to play and from there the Tigers rolled to their 96-76 final.
By the end of the fourth quarter, Risco had outscored Richland 24-13, which Blankenship credits a tweak the Tigers made to their defense.
"We made a little adjustment on that 2-2-1 press," Blankenship said. "We actually started sliding the weak side guy over to cut off the return pass so they couldn't reverse it.
"I think that little adjustment helped out late."
Rather than force the ball inside and deal with Forshee, Risco sent up three's most of the night, hitting 12 on the contest and nine through the first two quarters alone.
"Richard shut everything down pretty well inside tonight," Cline said. "They had four shooters outside, we matched up to them one-on-one, but we just didn't come out enough."
Pacing the Tigers' effort on the night was Pavy, who finished with a game-high 31 points while hitting five of his team's 3-pointers and scoring 14 points in the second frame alone. Austin White was second on the squad hitting four 3-pointers on his way to 23 points. Caleb McCord scored 22 points as Risco's top three scorers combined for 76 points.
"Caleb has been on a tear," Blankenship said. "He's been shooting the ball really well through the month of January. Jordon is our most consistent guy night in and night out. I thought Austin White had a really big game as well. We need him to get going to.
"He had a little injury there a week or so ago so he's just coming back to full strength and speed. When we get all three of those guards shooting well along with Earnheart and Cumins I think we'll be tough down the stretch."
Leading Richland (4-13) was Forshee, who had 29 points, scoring a combined 25 points in the second and third quarters combined. Marcus Grayson and Jessie Barnie had 19 and 11 points respectively.
RISCO (96) -- Josh Earnheart 5, Caleb McCord 22, Austin White 23, Jordan Pavy 31, Matt Cumins 4, Hunter Knight 2, Brandon Bixler 6, Eric Bennett 1, Cody Young 2. FG 34, FT 16-29, F 20. (3-pointers: Earnheart 1, McCord 2, White 4, Pavy 5. Fouled out: none.)
RICHLAND (76) -- Skyler Harper 5, Jessie Barnes 11, Nick Daniels 4, Marcus Grayson 19, Richard Forshee 29, Adam Lane 6, Tristan Montgomery 2. FG 29, FT 15-22, F 17. (3-pointers: Barnes 1. Fouled out: Barnes.)