Coming into this season, Richland’s boys basketball team had high hopes to be one of the best teams in their school’s history. They made their mark in the Region 1 Tournament, winning all three of their games to advance to the North Dakota State Basketball Tournament in Minot, North Dakota.
The team joins the 2006 Colts as the only other RHS team to make it to the elite tourney and their No. 3 ranking in the final polls is the highest they’ve ever climbed.
“They’ve made a few accomplishments this year,” Richland coach Cody Reiland. “I tried preparing the boys for the region tournament because everybody can come into that thing and play tough there.”
The Colts have been dominant all year and only lost two games in their regular season. The team is at their best when they have the tempo cranked up on both ends.
“Our goal is to get ‘er going, push it up the court and get a lot of shots off. We play a lot of pressure defense and have been pressing the whole court for mostly the whole game,” Reiland said. “(The key has been) getting them in shape. The kind of defense we play and offense is all fast-paced. We’ve been getting them in good shape all year and keeping them working really hard.”
Richland opened their Region 1 Tournament at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex with a 63-60 thriller win over Lisbon, North Dakota. The tight battle saw the Colts take control in crunch time with multiple game-changing moments.
“Just making them big plays at the end. Some of our boys on defense made some big plays and made the shots that they needed to. It kind of worked out in our favor at that point,” Reiland said. “Lisbon came out, shot really well and hung with us there. They played hard until the end.”
They followed it up with a 74-62 win over Fargo Oak Grove. The dozen-point result didn’t reflect how close the game for most of the way.
“Oak Grove seemed a little down this year, but they play a tough schedule and I knew it would be a tougher game,” Reiland said. “We beat them by 24 the first game, but I knew they’d come in ready to go. We did get a little cushion toward the end, but they kept it tight, too.”
In the Region 1 Championship, Richland was matched up with Kindred, North Dakota. The Colts gutted out another three-point win by a score of 50-47. It was a battle of teams with two completely different approaches to the game.
“It’s tough to get it fast-paced against (Kindred). They’re really methodical with their offense and they play really good defense, so it’s tough to get it going,” Reiland said. “We had a run in the third quarter to give us a little bit of lead and I knew we could grind ‘er out after that. Our kids don’t show a lot of emotion all the time, but you can tell when they get pumped.”
Hunter Lentz is the senior leader on the squad. His class is rounded out by a trio of other 12th graders on the team.
“Hunter Lentz sometimes comes up big on offense and a lot of times it’s rebounds and defense. That’s Hunter’s role,” Reiland said. “The other ones don’t get in there very much. They’re there every practice and are that type of supporting group. They drive the starters into getting better. They’re good competition for every practice.”
The Colts are focused on their current trip to state, but with only one senior regularly in the rotation, it wouldn’t be surprising if the team could make a run back to the tournament in the next couple of seasons.
Richland’s first game is at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, March 14 against Powers Lake, North Dakota.
“They’ve got a couple of quick guards, one that can shoot really well, so we’re going to have make we have a guy out watching for him,” Reiland said. “They’ve got a couple big guys that are heavier, but not real tall. They’ve got some real nice touch and they can shoot the ball so we’re going to have to make sure we keep the pressure on them.”