By Joseph Hayes
ST. CLAIR — It was everything you would expect from a postseason game.
It was intense, back and forth and with plenty of drama. And by the time it all concluded, the Richmond boys basketball team was only one win away from its first district championship in 15 years.
Richmond earned a hard-fought, 44-38, Division 2 victory over St. Clair Wednesday on the Saints own home court after capturing its first lead of the game midway in the third quarter and holding off St. Clair during the final minutes of the game.
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“It was very intense, it was a good game,” Daveyon Henderson said after scoring a game-high 21 points. “We just have to put this win down and keep it going for Friday. They had us down when we went in the locker room and our coach got us together and told us what we were doing wrong and told us to stay calm and we got it done.”
Henderson would be a big part of that effort. He was 6 for 6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, with the final four free throws helping to clinch the game.
“He really grew up tonight,” Richmond coach Josh Presnell said. “We have been waiting for this all season and he took a big step forward tonight.”
Justin Schweiger added 17 points for Richmond, which didn’t take its first lead until his three-point play with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter.
Sean Donaldson and Ryan Zimmer each had 10 points for St. Clair.
St. Clair started the game on a torrid 8-1 run, causing Richmond to call an early time out. Richmond would chip away at the advantage, but still trailed 12-8 at the end of the first quarter and 20-16 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Richmond began to find its groove after the Schweiger 3-point play.
They took the lead and continued to build upon the advantage as the quarter continued.
Richmond would lead 31-24 entering the fourth quarter after Henderson hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the third and appeared full of momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Saints were far from done.
Right when Richmond seemed to be pulling away, the Saints press began to function in high gear as they were able to speed up the game, force turnovers and cause Richmond to lose their grasp on the advantage.
Senior Sean Donaldson completed a 3-point play with 1:53 remaining to tie the game at 38-38 all and send the St. Clair gym into a frenzy.
But Henderson would begin to take over once again and the Saints would have no answer.
With the ball in his hands, Henderson was able to find his way into the lane and draw fouls, complete his free throws and send Richmond into the district finals.
Up next is Macomb Lutheran North. The teams will face off at 7 p.m. on Friday back in St. Clair.
Friday’s game will be somewhat different after the MHSSA announced the game will be limited to members of the media, parents, legal guardians and essential administrators.