The Richland High School boys basketball team had all but wrapped up their first trip to state since 2008 on Saturday at Wenatchee High School when Bombers coach Earl Streufert took each of his starters off the floor, allowing each of them to bask in a raucous round of applause from the Richland fans.
With just over a minute remaining in Richland’s 68-39 victory over Stadium, off they came: Jacob DeVries, Mason Hilty, Steven Beo, and a few seconds later, Payton Radliff and Nathan Streufert. Together, they got to watch their teammates close out an emotional win that allowed them to fulfill their season dream.
When junior guard Drew McCullough drilled a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left, it hardly factored into the final outcome, but the starting five cheered wildly from the bench, their smiles as wide as the nearby Columbia River gorge.
This is what they wanted all year: To get there as a team.
On Saturday, they did just that. They’ll be rewarded for it with a spot in the Tacoma Dome come Thursday.
“This is a special group from top to bottom. They really do pull for each other, and they want what’s best for each other,” Streufert said. “This team has kind of re-energized me that way.”
Four of the five Bombers’ starters scored in double figures, led by Radliff’s 15 points, and Richland applied the kind of constant ball pressure it’s known for, forcing the Tigers into 17 turnovers. The No. 7 Bombers denied Stadium’s top player, all-Narrows guard Eric Anderson-Connolly, holding him to just six points.
“That’s the best team we’ve played since Curtis,” Stadium coach Doug Cocké said. “If you don’t talk on defense and you don’t handle their heavy ball pressure, they’ll tear you up.”
Richland (19-4) trailed 9-8 after the first four minutes, but Radliff drilled a 3-pointer at the 3:24 mark that put the Bombers ahead for good. Nathan Streufert added four points during a 9-3 run that put Richland ahead 15-12 after one quarter.