Courtesy of Frank Wladyslawski at the News Herald…
After dominating rival Allen Park Cabrini in the semifinals, host Riverview Gabriel Richard had to face Ecorse in the Division 3, District 87 championship game on Friday night.
While the talented Red Raiders squad led after the first two quarters, Richard came out strong in the second half and ultimately came away with a 60-50 victory and the team’s first district title since 2016.
It was a bit of revenge for the program, as the Pioneers (17-4) were knocked off by Ecorse (13-8) in the 2017 district championship game.
With Friday’s win, Richard moved on to play Erie Mason in a D3 regional semifinal on Tuesday at Whitmore Lake.
To advance to the district championship game, Richard defeated Cabrini 72-18 in the semifinals, which were held two nights earlier. Ahead of that contest, the Pioneers held on for a 59-57 victory over Taylor Prep on Monday in the opening round of the state tournament.
The Red Raiders cruised into the district final, as they dominated Dearborn Advanced Tech 71-37 in the first round and then overpowered Detroit Universal Academy 82-19 in the semis.
In Friday’s championship game, Garrett Balazsi led the Pioneers in scoring with 15 points and he had eight assists and seven rebounds. Richard’s Kevin Tuttle netted 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the victory and Deshon Elam finished the night with 10 points and seven boards.
In addition, both Matt Silka and Mike Holdsclaw each scored eight points, with Holdsclaw also grabbing nine rebounds along the way.
Ecorse was up 10-7 after the first quarter and it led 24-19 at the half.
Tuttle, Holdsclaw and Jacob Henderson all put in second-quarter baskets to keep the game within striking distance.
“We knew we would have to keep the game close early,” said Richard coach Kris Daiek. “They are very talented and we felt if we could keep them within two possessions, we would have a chance.”
After the half, the Pioneers came out and struck on both ends of the floor.
Tuttle led the charge with a pair of 3-pointers and Silka dropped in five points during an 11-2 run that ignited the packed student section in the bleachers.
Overall, Richard outscored Ecorse 18-8 in the third quarter. All eight of those Red Raider points came from Deondre Bonepart.
The big third quarter for the Pioneers gave the group a 37-32 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
“Our kids responded,” Daiek said. “That was impressive on both ends of the floor. Our seniors stepped up and played some great basketball (with passion).”
For Richard, Holdsclaw came up big in the final quarter, as he netted four points and grabbed five rebounds.
The Pioneers went up by as many as nine points, but Ecorse answered with 11 points from Torjano Bibbs to help keep his squad in the game.
However, Balazsi was there to answer every Ecorse run on a night where he scored 11 of his 15 points in the final quarter.
“He was in total control out there.” Daiek said. “He really matured tonight. They brought some big-time pressure and he answered the bell. It was impressive.”
Ecorse was hit with a technical foul inside the final three minutes of the quarter. It led to three Richard points and a seven-point lead for the home team.
The Pioneers eventually walked off with the 60-50 victory and moved on to the regional semis to face a strong Erie Mason (20-2) team at Whitmore Lake. The winner of that contest will return to Whitmore Lake on Thursday to face either Ypsilanti Arbor Prep or Detroit Loyola for the regional title.