By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO – Richland’s 11-game winning streak could have afforded to be just a bit longer.
The Raiders’ streak, and season, came to an end Wednesday as North Greene dealt them a 56-55 decision in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class A state tournament at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center.
“It was a great experience. I hate that it didn’t end like we wanted,” said Daniel Nicholson, one of Richland’s five seniors, after the loss that brought their 26-2 campaign to a close.
Nicholson finished with 16 points, one of three double-digit scorers for the Raiders, but picked up his final three fouls in an 18-second span inside the game’s final minute as Richland tried to recover from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.
After scoring seven unanswered points and cutting the margin to 54-52, Nicholson was whistled for a foul on a would-be steal near midcourt. On the ensuing possession, he was called for a charge in the paint. As the Huskies inbounded the ball, he fouled in an attempt for another steal, with Cayden Foulks converting both ends of a one-and-one at the 18.1-second mark and making it a 56-52 game.
A Jase Derryberry 3-pointer with three seconds remaining pulled Richland within one, but North Greene did not inbound the ball as time expired.
“I thought Daniel in both instances was doing what Daniel does – making plays,” veteran Raiders coach Jason Loveless said. “He went straight up, and he got a steal. The officials thought differently.
“If we’d gotten more defensive rebounds, maybe it wouldn’t have come down to that.”
Richland came up short on the boards (38-22), with North Greene capitalizing particularly on its own misses – outrebounding the Raiders by 10 and enjoying a six-point “second chance” advantage.
“We showed a little toughness,” Huskies coach Sam Tarlton said after the victory, which sends his team into a 10 a.m. semifinal Friday against the Madison Academic/Clay County quarterfinal winner. “We got good shots, but you’ve got to go in there and rebound them. Any time you can get easy shots, …
“We had to get stops and rebounds.”
Richland appeared to be the first team to settle into the tourney environment, leading by five at the end of the opening quarter and getting a pair of Nicholson free throws to open the second period for a 17-10 lead. A couple of Nicholson baskets midway through the quarter pushed the Raider cushion to 23-15, but North Greene answered with a 9-0 run and forced a 26-all tie at halftime.
Nicholson and Trey Luna combined for nine straight points to open the third period, but the Huskies responded again and put together their own fourth-quarter surge behind German exchange student Chriss Schultz, who finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
“I thought twice we were on the verge of breaking it open,” Loveless said. “They made plays.”
Eventually, North Greene put together one last run and Richland ran out of time.
“When the other team goes on runs, you have to weather the course, stay the course,” Tarlton said.
“We were pushing the ball like we always do, getting out in transition and getting easy baskets,” Nicholson said. “(At the end) some shots weren’t there.”
Logan Helton finished with 17 points to lead Richland and Trey Luna added 10. Foulks finished with 11 and Chance Campbell 10 for North Greene.
“We came to win the tournament,” Loveless said. “The fact we didn’t doesn’t leave a blemish on the legacy (of our seniors). We’re here because of them.”
North Greene boys 56, Richland 55
N 10 16 12 18 – 56
R 15 11 12 17 – 55
North Greene (56) – Carson Whaley 2, Cayden Foulks 11, Chance Campbell 10, Cody Freshour 6, Kendal Loftis 5, Chriss Schultz 19, Shane Cooter 3
Richland (55) – Tyrell Randolph 5, Jase Derryberry 3, Logan Helton 17, Daniel Nicholson 16, Trey Luna 10, Stevie Ballinger 4
3-pointers – North Greene 5 (Foulks, Campbell 2, Schultz, Cooter), Richland 5 (Randolph, Derryberry, Helton, Nicholson, Luna)
Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports