On Friday, the Richmond Oilers boys’ basketball team defeated their cross-town rival, the Kennedy Eagles, 58-44. The game was held at Richmond High and was the Oilers third victory of their last five games.
The contest was thoroughly guarded by law enforcement officers, both in and out of uniform. Prior to entering the gymnasium fans were separated into two lines, one for women and another for men, and searched for weapons. Last October the two schools experienced gunshots during the fourth quarter of their football game and police didn’t want to take any chances this time.
The atmosphere inside the gym was more agreeable. On one side, Oilers fans packed the bleachers to the rafters, while cheerleaders stood on the court, stomped their feet, shook their pompoms and shouted Oilers’ rally calls. On the other side, a few Eagles’ fans sat quietly and watched the game.
“This game means a lot because it’s about bragging rights,” said Richmond Oilers football player Jorge Diaz as he sat in the stands and supported his classmates. “For one whole year you get to brag about it. With this crowd behind them, they’re going to win.”
Diaz’s forecast was right on target: The Oilers used their team’s height advantage and rebounding ability to take a commanding 36-20 halftime lead. Kennedy’s game highlight came just before the half when guard Najee Island caught a full court inbound pass from forward DeJon Brown and sank a 21-foot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
A few minutes later when Oilers’ head coach Rob Collins heard his team bickering in the locker room over the buzzer beater, he told them not to live in the past. It’s more important to play hard and live for the future, he assured them. “If you come in off the bench for 30 seconds, you got to play like it’s the last day of your life,” he told his squad. “Because you know what that means? That means we’re going to win and you’re going to win.”
But the Eagles didn’t go away quietly. They used their speed and slash-to-the-bucket moves to outscore the Oilers by one bucket in the second half. But their come-from-behind effort didn’t come without a cost. Halfway through the third quarter, Island was tripped up by Oilers’ power forward Devonte Anderson. Both fell forward and Anderson landed on Island’s right ankle. After about five minutes during which the injured player lay on the court, Island was carried off by coaches and did not return to the game.
With the game firmly in hand, Oilers’ head coach Rob Collins cleared his bench in the fourth quarter for a curtain call. Fans went nuts as seldom-used players tried to fill their stat sheets with jumpers and layups.
Kennedy’s head coach Dewayne Hoskin knew this was going to be a challenging game for his guard-laden team, but hoped they’d play like giants. That didn’t happen. Richmond grabbed rebounds at will and on offense pounded the ball inside to their taller post players.
“It’s just like I said [before the game],” said Hoskin about the key to victory. “Whoever wins rebounds will win the game. And Richmond killed us on the rebounds. Devonte [Anderson] looks like a league MVP.” Throughout the game Anderson used his lanky 6’5” frame to grab rebounds off the glass, and dribbled down court like LeBron James.
“We’re playing team ball now,” Collins said after the game. “We finally got to have a curtain call and bring guys off the floor. That’s team ball. Our fans and school were excited today.”
Richmond’s next game is Wednesday against De Anza. Tip off is at 7 p.m. at Richmond High. Kennedy’s next game is also Wednesday when they host Albany at 7 p.m.