Boys basketball: Russia falls 65-52 to Richmond Heights in state semifinal


DAYTON — Russia and Richmond Heights’ Division IV state semifinal on Friday followed a similar script as last year and finished with a near-identical score.

The Raiders played with Richmond Heights for three quarters but couldn’t keep up late and lost 65-52 at University of Dayton Arena. Russia, which was ranked No. 2 in the final Associated Press Div. IV poll of the year, finishes 27-2 overall.

It was the second straight state appearance for Russia, which lost 66-51 to Richmond Heights last year.

“Nobody can be disappointed,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said. “Our community is as proud as they can be for the product these guys put on the floor each and every night for 29 games. That’s one of the things we said in the locker room.

“Nobody can be disappointed. They represent what’s on the front of their jersey each and every night. Everybody in the community can applaud that.”

The OHSAA sets state matchups each year before the start of the tournament by draw, and for the third time in four years, the Southwest regional winner was matched with the Northeast winner in a semifinal.

Russia has been the only D-IV team to give the Spartans (18-9) a fight in the last two years. Richmond Heights won its first five tournament games by margins of 34 or more points; after a 15-point victory over the Raiders in a semifinal last year, the squad went on to beat Convoy Crestview 70-26 in the final.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Cordonnier said. “What do you want me to say? We’re the best team in the state of Ohio the last two years not named Richmond Heights? It’s possible. I don’t know if that’s the truth or not. But I would think (our players) would say that, and their effort each and every night would back that up.

“… Richmond Heights is a very, very disciplined team. When we’re not playing them, I enjoy watching them play. Those dudes can flat out get it. You’re going to see four of those guys in a couple of years in March Madness. You’re not going to see (our guys).

“It is what it is. We talked about that the last two years. We’re going to go out and we’re going to fight for 32 minutes. We’ve done it for 29 games, and we fell short twice. Nothing to be disappointed about.”

The Spartans have won the last two D-IV titles and can become the fifth team since 1922 to win three consecutive state titles if they beat Berlin Hiland on Sunday.

Richmond Heights, which was ranked No. 4 in the final state AP D-IV poll, had all its starters back from last year, including D’Erick Barber, Dorian Jones and Demaris Winters, who all have a plethora of offers from Division I universities.

“We knew (Russia is) good, and it looked like they bulked up over the break. They’re coming in, and they know that they could win the game,” Richmond Heights coach Quientin Rogers said. “Talent doesn’t necessarily win these games. It comes down to mental toughness, schemes and discipline. We preach on that, we don’t just rely on talent. When you’re playing a team like this, you can easily get beat if you’re one dimensional.”

Russia will lose three seniors to graduation: Brayden Monnin, Felix Francis and Hayden Quinter. Monnin and Quinter are four-year varsity players.

“These guys have had fantastic careers here at Russia High School,” Cordonnier said. “Not only in basketball. What this collection of seniors and juniors has done at Russia, one state title in baseball, a runner-up in baseball, two state final four appearances in basketball, a state appearance as a golf team, a state appearance in cross county (individually by Monnin), it’s absolutely wild.”

Before Friday, Russia won all its tournament games by margins of 21 or more points. The team won 14 games this season by 30 points or more.

Russia is set to return 12 players who were on the bench, including 11 juniors.

Francis said they have no doubt the returning players can make it back to UD Arena next year, especially with the expansion to seven divisions set to take effect.

“These guys that me and Brayden have been able to play with, these juniors and this sophomore class coming up, they’re a special group of guys,” Francis said.

Monnin agreed: “The past few years we’ve been here, it’s been an amazing time. I feel like they’ll be hungry and they’ll want to get back here again.”

Monnin led Russia with 15 points and had three assists. Francis scored 12 points and had nine rebounds and three assists. Benjamin York scored 12 points and Braylon Cordonnier scored eight.

Russia never led but tied it five times, including once in the fourth quarter.

Francis made a big dunk late in the third on an assist from Monnin to cut the gap to two points. The Spartans pushed it to five, but Monnin made a layup before the end of the quarter to cut it to 42-39.

York made a 3 from the left wing with 7:42 left in the fourth to tie it.

“I think we were moving the ball around well (and not committing turnovers),” Francis said. “… We were taking care of the ball. Once we started going, we were on a little roll, and we just kept building off that.”

Like last year, Richmond Heights began to pull away.

After a free throw by Hosea Steele Jr., Jeremy Wilson made a dunk on a fast break, and Barber made a layup after a turnover with 6:44 left to give the Spartans a 47-42 lead.

Jeremy Wilson made two foul shots to push the lead to seven points, and Russia never pulled closer than five the rest of the way.

The Spartans managed to pull away late despite Jones fouling out. Barber led the squad with 17 points and had six assists while Jones scored 16 and Winters scored 15. Steele Jr. had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Richmond Heights four times scored within 17 seconds of Russia tying it to retake the lead. The lone exception was at the end of the half, when it was tied for about 90 seconds before Tyson Garner made two foul shots to give the Spartans a 31-29 halftime lead.

“Deflating,” Cordonnier said of Richmond Heights responding quickly each time Russia tied it late. “Each time that happened, it’s like, ‘We rolling,’ and five seconds later, they’re scoring.

“… In our big moments, it was unfortunate we weren’t able to recover and get a stop. Much like last year, where we had four live ball turnovers where they had one pass and a 3. It was the same deal. We talked about that before the game. It takes the wind out of your sails.”

Richmond Heights led 14-5 with 2:30 left in the first quarter and blocked three shots early.

But Monnin and Cordonnier hit jumpers to help Russia get back in it. The Raiders trailed 17-11 at the end of the second quarter, and they scored six straight to tie it 21-21 midway through the second.

“I said ‘Come on, gentleman, we need to adjust to this length and athleticism,’ a little bit better than what we had,” Cordonnier said of the slow start. “We calmed down after the first three, four minutes of the game and was able to execute some things.

“Both years playing Richmond Heights, they really do a good job of taking you out of what you want to run and making it a scatterbrain game. Which is fine. We play that way most of the year, too; that’s the way our guys like to play.

“… They’re tough to defend for 32 minutes. Let’s face the fact here. They’re very, very difficult guard for anybody they’re going to play. I thought our guys all day long just battled and battled and battled. We didn’t come out on top again, and I know they’re disappointed, but I’m not disappointed. Our community isn’t disappointed.”

Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

No posts to display