Russia boys basketball team falls in State Final Four in back-to-back years to Richmond Heights

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Russia Raiders finish season 27-2 falling in state final 4. (Dale Barger photo)

DAYTON – The Russia Raiders returned to the OHSAA DIV State Final Four for the second year in a row only to face the same team, Richmond Heights, that dispatched them last year.

Different year but in the end it would be the same result as last year with Richmond Heights pulling away from a 42-39 lead heading into the final stanza.

The Raiders tied the game with a triple to start the 4th and even had an alley-oop dunk to Felix Francis … but that momentum-breaking play was erased quickly with a return dunk from Dorian Jones and then a steal and lay-up from DeErick Barber of Richmond to regain the lead and momentum in a blink of an eye.

There were two moments in the game where Russia made big play only to see the Spartans answer including a 4-point play in the 1st half.

“Deflating, that’s all I can say, deflating,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said.

“We’re rolling, and five seconds later, they’re scoring,” Cordonnier added.

That push in the 4th quarter spurt by Richmond was enough to keep the Raiders playing from behind and they would have to gamble on defense or send the Spartans to the free throw line where they were money most of the night going 9-for-10 in the 4th quarter. For the game, they were 15-17 compared to Russia going 6-13 for the game.

Richmond Heights would go on to win the game 65-52 to advance to the State Championship game on Sunday.

Coach Spencer Cordonnier emphasized taking care of the basketball and rebounding and the Raiders only had 9 turnovers in the game and outrebounded Richmond Heights 28-23.

“We talked about it all week long taking care of the basketball. We had 22 turnovers last year. And that was that was really our Achilles heel and I thought if we could limit them and rebound with them we would have a chance. We out-rebounded, everybody all year long, I didn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to out-rebound them today and you know, looking at the stats here, we ended up out-rebounding them and had nine turnovers we did a fantastic job of taking care of it,” Cordonnier commented.

Senior Hayden Quinter goes hard to the rim. (Dale Barger photo)

But to beat a team like Richmond Heights you have to play almost a perfect game.  Russia shot the ball well 20-46 and 6-16 from beyond the arch and matched the Spartans physically, even drawing praise from Richmond Heights Coach that they looked physically different from last year while giving them credit for their approach to taking the game to them.

The Raiders got off to a slow start with the Spartans blocking the first 6 shots by Russia with several leading to direct scores as Richmond got out to a fast start.  But to Russia’s credit, they were able to settle down and work their way back into the game.

The Raiders never led in the game but would be down by as many as 9 points at the 2:41 mark of the 1stperiod.

“I don’t know, they blocked our first seven out of eight shots, or something like that and I was like, come on, gentlemen, we need to adjust to this length and athleticism here.  We finally calmed down after the first three, four minutes of the game and, and was able to execute some things,” Cordonnier stated.

Russia battled back to trail just 31-29 heading into the break.  They would get production from Brayden Monnin with 9 points, Braylon Cordonnier 8 and Benjamin York 6 points in the 1st half.

Senior Braylon Cordonnier got the hot hand in the 1st half to bring the Raiders back into the game. (Dale Barger photo)

Early in the 3rd quarter, Russia would draw the 4th foul from Dorian Jones and then the 5th, early in the 4th … but the Spartans didn’t miss a beat with their leading scorer on the bench.

Russia though wasn’t going to go down without a fight and would battle hard for 4 quarters something they had done all season long playing into their bench as coach Cordonnier had done all year.

“We’ve got seven starters. I mean, we really do. It was a shame that two of those kids couldn’t start all year long. We knew that day one coming in. And, you know, really, I don’t have anything to do with the substitution, coach Francis does all of it. I’ll sub somebody here and there. But, you know, the idea behind it is to keep guys fresh.  If we can keep guys fresh and keep running them in and out and give them short breaks here and there we can play that way for 32 minutes, and we can get up and press and do what we got to do since day one, we talked to these guys about it we’re going to pick up full court. And we’re not going to stop until March 24 unless told differently and tonight we were told differently. But that still doesn’t take away about how hard these guys played day in and day out,” Coach Cordonnier said.

Cordonnier was asked about the loss to Richmond Heights for the second year in a row if it hurt.

“I mean I don’t know, what do you want me to say we’re the best team in the state of Ohio the last few years not named Richmond Heights. It’s possible I don’t know if that’s the truth or not I would think these guys would say that (Felix Francis and Brayden Monnin sitting next to him) and their effort each and every night would back that up and the way they play and the way they fight,” Cordonnier stated.

It was that kind of effort they would need to play with Richmond Heights as Cordonnier praised the play of Richmond Heights.

“Those dudes can flat-out get it. I mean, they can play, you’re going to see 4 of those guys in a couple of years, this weekend … only it will be in March Madness instead. You’re not going to see these two guys beside me,” Cordonnier added. But you know it is what it is, and we talked about that both years. We’re going to go out and fight for 32 minutes. I don’t care who we’re playing. You know, we’ve done it for 29 games, and we fell short twice. Nothing to be disappointed about,” Cordonnier continued.

“I thought our guys fought hard all night all day long. Just battled and battled.  I know they’re disappointed. I’m not disappointed. Our community isn’t disappointed. They’re as proud as they can be. For the product that that these guys put on the floor each and every night for 29 games you know, that’s one of the things we said in the locker rooms. Nobody can be disappointed you represent what’s on the front of your jersey every single night to the best of your ability and everybody in the community would applaud,” Cordonnier exclaimed.

Senior Brayden Monnin tries to put a floater over the top of a Richmond Heights defender. (Dale Barger photo)

Russia graduates 3 seniors Felix Francis, Brayden Monnin and Hayden Quinter representing a class that has not only excelled well on the basketball court.

“These guys have had fantastic careers here at Russia High School, not only in basketball, but you also know what this collection of seniors and juniors has done at Russia with one state title in baseball, a runner-up in baseball, two state Final Four appearances in basketball, a state appearance in golf team and a state appearance in cross country. It’s unprecedented really, what has gone on with these two classes have done, it’s absolutely wild. I remember back when they wanted it as a freshman in baseball and thinking I tried and tried and tried for four years, now they’ve been there five times.  These guys have been there on different stages five times. That has never happened and may never happen again,” Cordonnier concluded.