Richmond boys basketball coach Phil Houdlette looked at the scoresheet after his team’s game with Telstar, and was stunned to see the number next to Zach Small’s name.

“I looked at the book and I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I said to (assistant coach) Paul Lancaster, ‘How many points do you think Zach had?’ And he said ‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 30?’ ”

The number was far more staggering. Small scored 48 while leading the Bobcats to an 87-56 victory over the Rebels on Tuesday night.

“I was amazed that he had 48,” Houdlette said. “It was just in the flow of the game.”

Indeed, banner nights for Small have been nothing unusual this winter. The senior guard is averaging 30.1 points per game for the 9-2 Bobcats, and Tuesday was his sixth time reaching 30 this season.

Lately, however, Small has been going off. He’s averaged 35 points per game in his last four contests, a stretch that started with a 27-point outing against Mt. Abram and was followed by 33 points against Monmouth, 32 against Dirigo and then the whopping 48 against Telstar.

“Zach’s a competitor, and he’s always looking to score, he’s relentless,” Houdlette said. “His teammates do a good job of finding him and setting him up, and he can finish. You put that all together, and I think that spells somebody who’s going to put some points on the board most nights.”

His team needs it, too. Richmond is depth-strapped compared to the other teams in the Mountain Valley Conference, and while players like Casey Gorman and Nate Kendrick have been important contributors, the onus has fallen on Small and fellow senior Matt Rines to put up the points.

“For us to be successful, we need Zach to have a decent game night in and night out. Same with Matt Rines,” Houdlette said. “I think our team realizes we need them to do the bulk of the scoring for us, and then the others can pick up where they’re comfortable.”

Small has resorted to different ways to get those points. He can shoot from mid-range and outside, but against Monmouth, he drove continuously to the basket and scored 17 points at the free-throw line. Against Telstar, he made 19 field goals and 15 from inside the arc, doing much of his damage on fast breaks and in transition.

“He likes to attack,” Houdlette said. “I’m not saying he won’t shoot the three, he will shoot the three, but Zach likes to take the ball to the basket. He’s under control, he likes to get into the paint, he likes to draw contact, and he can finish after contact.”

• • •

The shuffling continues for the Gardiner basketball team.

The Tigers have had to deal with an unstable lineup all season, and Gardiner’s personnel got another shakeup when senior point guard Isaiah Magee, a starter the past two seasons and who was projected to be one this year, left the team. He hadn’t played for the Tigers since a Jan. 2 game against Mt. Ararat.

“Isaiah’s no longer with the team,” coach Jason Cassidy confirmed. He declined to go into more detail.

With Magee out, Cole Lawrence has taken over point guard responsibilities, and Cassidy said he liked what he’s seen from the senior.

“He’s done a very good job for us,” he said. “He has very limited turnovers, and we’re still able to find him a 3-point shot. Obviously his assists have gone up now that he’s running the point for us. He’s done a really nice job of taking that spot and making it his own, really playing hard and communicating with his teammates and coaches.”

The Tigers sat third in the A North Heal points entering Thursday at 6-4, and had won three straight games before dropping a 66-50 decision to first-place Hampden Academy.

“The kids played hard. That’s a very good team, and there’s a reason they’re at the top of the league there,” Cassidy said. “We’ll have to make some adjustments if we see them again, for sure.”

• • •

Ask Cony coach T.J. Maines who has been one of his team’s most pleasant surprises, and it doesn’t take him too long to come up with an answer.

“The kid who’s really come on is Ian Bowers,” Maines said. “It’s not something I expected. He’s been tremendous.”

After playing a small role last year, Bowers has been front-and-center in his junior season. He’s averaging 8.7 rebounds per game but has come on even stronger of late, averaging over 10 rebounds per contest the last nine games.

“He doesn’t quit,” Maines said. “He just works his tail off. Every shot that goes up, you watch it on film, he attempts to rebound it. It’s very, very rare you see him flat-footed and not going after a ball.”

The 6-foot-3 Bowers isn’t the only one on the Rams with the height and measureables to challenge shots and pick up boards. Amahde Carter (6-3) and Bryan Stratton (6-2) have been effective in the post all season for Cony, but Maines said Bowers has shown a knack that has stood out so far.

“They both do a nice job of keeping balls alive,” Maines said, “but Ian seems to come down with the ball a lot.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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