RICHMOND – By the the time the shots that had missed their mark for much of the night started falling, Richmond-Burton’s regional championship hopes were slim.
The deficit, which had reached double digits only a minute into the second quarter, had doubled in size, leaving the Rockets to wonder how things had gone wrong so quickly. By the time R-B’s normally reliable perimeter shooting showed up, all the Rockets could do was shake their heads in disbelief.
The result – a 64-49 season-ending loss to No. 2-seeded Chicago Uplift – was, by that point, a foregone conclusion. The hardest thing for the Rockets to swallow was that they knew it didn’t have to be that bad.
“They didn’t get our best effort tonight,” senior Brian Wells said. “We played poor offensively, turned the ball over and we kind of got out of sync offensively.”
The R-B shot chart bore that out, displaying a 19-for-58 performance that played a major impact on the final outcome. The Rockets (21-8) managed only 13 first-half points, allowing the Titans to jump out to a comfortable advantage.
As confident as Uplift felt halfway through, R-B’s shooting woes also took an emotional toll.
“I say we played (at) about a-third of our ability,” said junior Sam Kaufman, who led the Rockets with 15 points to go along with 13 from Joey St. Pierre. “We couldn’t score in the first half, it wasn’t that much better in the second half. It happens, I guess.”
Uplift, which had three scorers reach double figures, led by Quinton Olagbegi’s 19 points, led by as many as 23 points early in the fourth quarter. That’s when R-B’s perimeter shooting finally took shape as the Rockets connected on four of their six 3-point field goals to get the deficit down to 61-49.
By that point, though, it was too late. And everything, including the frustration the Rockets played with, pointed back to the start.
“We couldn’t make a shot – a lay-up, a free throw, a 3-pointer,” R-B coach Brandon Creason said. “We had to start spreading out our defense to try and create some offense and we had to take risks. That’s not a team that you want to take risks with.
“But when the ball’s not going in the hole, you’re kind of forced to do some things. We had to do some things we didn’t want to do.”
The loss came a week after the Rockets captured an outright Big Northern Conference East Division championship. Despite being on their home floor with a chance to extend its season, one of R-B’s worst shooting performances of the season came at the worst time.
“You would think we would have a little more intensity coming into this game, but we just came out flat,” senior Danny Rygiel said. “We weren’t prepared as we should have been.”