The difference between Richmond Heights and the other Division IV teams that advanced to the state tournament? The Spartans are guided by youth.
They only have one senior on their roster, Sonny Emory, and start a trio of sophomore guards. But two of them were intricate parts of the state title run a season ago.
The offense is led by De’Erick Barber, who is a pure point guard, putting the offense itself ahead of the points. He averages 8.8 assists a game and with a range of options to hit on the drive or on a kick, it’s an offense where his passing has been able to thrive.
Barber’s on-ball defense has been strong all season as well. He led the area with 3.9 steals per game, and that has led to a plethora of runouts to push leads in games.
One of the biggest benefactors has been Dorian Jones, as the pair have connected time and again this season. He’s averaged 20.1 points a game this season to lead the Spartans, and the two saw their connection as strong as ever in a state semifinal win against Russia.
The two found each other several times against the Raiders, including in the fourth quarter to pull ahead. However, while they bring the experience, every other piece has limited to no experience at this point of the season.
But coach Quentin Rogers knew that and used the regular season to help prepare them with big-game atmospheres. The Spartans had several neutral-site and road games to help prepare them for the big atmospheres.
With games against the likes of Harvest Prep, Lutheran East and St. Edward among others, the bright lights of the state stage should be just like home for them. And in every game this season, they’ve seen different players step up as the leader for the team.
Hosea Steele has had his fair share of strong moments, Demarris Winters led the Spartans to their victory over St. Edward and Jeremy Wilson was critical in the regional round. The coming together as a unit has been the focal point of the season, but there were still times that the Spartans saw the youth get the better of them.
The nerves were there against Russia in their D-IV state semifinal March 17, as they trailed by seven early in the second. Rogers kept his composure and his team followed suit as they just went back over the game plan at the break.
“I try to let them play through it, which is why I don’t call as many timeouts as other teams,” Rogers said. “But they’re young, so there’s going to be those immature moments. Sometimes I feel like they still don’t know the situations at times — they’re just out there to play basketball. The magnitude of what’s around them. We know there’s going to be those immature moments, but we want them to be few and far between.”
The only team in the way of the Spartans back-to-back D-IV state titles is Conroy Crestview. The Knights are aiming for their third state title in school history and first since 2019, where these two met and Crestview won, 59-49.
If the Spartans want their budding dynasty to start with a pair of titles, they will need to avoid a second slow start in as many games.
What: Division IV state final
When: 2 p.m., March 19
Where: UD Arena, Dayton
Records: Richmond Heights 28-0, Convoy Crestview 25-3
TV: Spectrum News 1
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