MADISON — Now in its second year playing Class C basketball, Richmond moved to the Mountain Valley Conference to get tougher competition. In Friday’s season opener at Madison, the Bobcats got all the competition they could handle.

Richmond led throughout the game, before Madison rallied to take a one-point lead with 2:30 to play. Richmond regrouped and scored the final 11 points of the game, taking a 64-54 win.

“We don’t have a lot of room for error, because we’re not very deep. That’s not any disrespect to our younger kids. They just haven’t been in this before. A lot of our older kids haven’t been in this before either,” Richmond coach Phil Houdlette said.

The Bobcats led 48-41 after three quarters, but a combination of Madison’s pressure and tired legs made the game a nailbiter. When Matt Oliver sank a pair of free throws with 2:31 left, the Bulldogs held a 54-53 lead.

With 1:38 to go, Matt Rines sank a pair of free throws to give the Bobcats the lead for good. A Zach Small layup off a steal, followed by a Rines layup, gave Richmond a 59-54 lead with just over a minute to play.

“I thought we did a nice job holding composure. It was an intense game, and Madison makes you battle. They could have folded when Madison finally went up by a point,” Houdlette said.

The Bobcats made five free throws in the final minute to clinch the season-opening victory.

“The boys fought the whole game. We got back into it. It just swung one way or the other. The effort was there. We’ve just got things we need to tweak,” Madison coach Jason Furbush said.

Richmond led 32-26 at the half, most on the backs of Rines and Small, who combined to score 30 of the Bobcats first 32 points. Rines finished with a game-high 32 points, while Small added 22.

“We didn’t do enough tonight to stop them from scoring. The Rines kid, our help side was a little late on him, and when you allow penetration, he’s as quick as anyone in the league,” Furbush said.

One thing Houdlette said the Bobcats will need to adjust to in their new league is the physical game. Many of the schools Richmond plays now also have football teams, which wasn’t the case in the Class D East/West Conference.

“You see upstairs here, there’s a weight room. I think we might have a set of dumbbells someplace in the school. There’s definitely a physicality we’re not accustomed to,” Houdlette said.

Sean Whalen scored 17 points for Madison, while Evan Bess added 16. Dan Stewart grabbed 16 rebounds for Richmond.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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