RICHMOND — As the momentum shifted dramatically toward Forest Hills in the second half, it appeared a young Richmond boys basketball team would fold in the face of pressure applied by the defending Class D state champions.
It looked worse when the visiting Tigers (8-1) from Jackman took a two-point lead with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left to play. But instead of folding, the young Bobcats (5-4) came of age thanks to a huge 3-pointer from senior Sean Bernier and some clutch free throws from Brendan and Cameron Emmons down the stretch. The Richmond fans rose to their feet as the Bobcats secured a 56-47 victory, their biggest of the season and in perhaps some time.
“For us to get this win after the win at Buckfield the other night is a really big deal,” Bernier said. “(At Buckfield) we played with high intensity. We decided to keep that up and not back down from these guys.”
Forest Hills played without starting forward Ryan Petrin, who injured his heel Tuesday night at Greenville. His absence hurt the Tigers and was compounded when the Bobcats shot the lights out in the first half, connecting on 6 of 8 three-point attempts to take a 32-16 lead at halftime. The Tigers showed why they’re a two-time regional champion in the third quarter as they pressed the Bobcats, both zone and man-to-man, and got back into the game.
“We had a couple of turnovers when they put that press on and we needed to calm ourselves down and take care of the ball,” Richmond coach Jon Spear said.
Spear took 6-foot-3 sophomore Bailey Johansen out of the game in favor of another ballhandler and although it helped in breaking the press, it hurt the Bobcats on the backboard. The Tigers took full advantage as they posted up juniors Matt Turner (18 points) and Tanner Daigle and got back into the game. They trailed 42-32 at the third period break and opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run to take a 46-44 lead. Turner and Daigle each scored four points in the run and senior guard Nathan Jalbert converted a three-point play.
Richmond looked confused on offense until Bernier took charge and hit a 3-pointer from the right side of the circle to give his team a 47-46 lead.
“The score was pretty close,” Bernier said. “I thought as senior captain I might as well give it a shot.”
Both Jalbert and Turner fouled out down the stretch, limiting the Tigers’ options on offense. The Bobcats sealed the game from the free throw line as Brendan Emmons and Tyler Soucy each made a pair from the line and Cameron Emmons, the team’s junior point guard, connected on 5 of 6 attempts.
Cameron Emmons and Bernier each finished with 12 points, while freshman Matt Holt made huge contributions at both ends of the floor, guarding both Turner and Daigle at times during the game while scoring a team-high 14 points, including three 3-pointers.
“He can play big and he can play outside,” Spear said.” He’s very versatile.”