Thomas scores 22, Hargraves adds 21 as No. 6 Twin Rivers beats No. 11 Richland
BLOOMFIELD — Sixth-seeded Twin Rivers tried to string together runs to put away 11th-seeded Richland. The Rebels responded to each attempt with spurts of their own in the first half, but the third quarter was a different story.
Seniors Hayden Thomas and Zach Hargraves scored the Royals’ first 10 points out of the halftime break to start a game-clinching run, and Twin Rivers ran away from Richland in the second half for a 66-44 win to move into the winner’s bracket of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.
“(Early baskets) make us play high-intensity defense. We look to get the ball and score,” Thomas said. “It helped us execute better.”
Thomas and Hargraves scored 22 points and 21 points, respectively. The difference-making 13-2 run in the third started when Hargraves ripped the ball away from a Richland player, drove down the court and dropped off a pass to Brent Trout for a layup.
Thomas stayed involved in the run and nailed a wide open 3-pointer after being left alone by the defense.
“We talk to (Thomas) a lot about being aggressive. He’s very good at making the right play every time,” Twin Rivers coach Seth McBroom said. “Sometimes, for us, we just need to be aggressive and knock down a shot or go get fouled. (Thomas) came out with a sense of purpose tonight, and we’re proud of him. Glad he’s on our team.
Aaron Mittelstadt scored two when he cut across the paint and was left wide open on an inbounds play along the baseline.
Thomas and Hargraves each added a driving layup to end the third quarter. The run carried into the fourth when Tanner Ledbetter banked home a jumper set up by a bounce pass from Parker Watson.
Richland (5-3) broke the run with a trey but was never able to pull within 17 points as the Royals (7-2) controlled the last half of play.
“Our kids are young, most of them not used to being in high-profile, high-intensity situations, that was some of it,” Richland coach Marc Crane said. “Sometimes, I don’t think they expect enough of themselves. I kind of felt like they got complacent, felt like maybe they weren’t supposed to win at times. ... We’ve got to overcome that. They need to believe that they’re as good as I believe they are.”
In the first quarter, Thomas gave the Royals the spark they needed, scoring the team’s first seven points and hitting three 3s in the first quarter on his way to 10 points in the opening frame. A 13-0 run late in the first quarter gave Twin Rivers a lead it wouldn’t relinquish after an 8-4 start for Richland.
“We had our chances in the first half to extend the lead and give us a comfortable lead, but it seemed like we had our spurts where we’d get complacent and have a breakdown on defense, maybe take a poor shot or have a turnover,” McBroom said.
Twin Rivers’ finished the half on a 13-4 burst with Hargraves and Watson serving as the catalysts. After a baseline jumper from Watson sparked the run, Hargraves cut to the basket and was fouled while converting a layup, setting up a chance at a 3-point play.
“It all started on defense. We knew we had to get stops on defense first and foremost. Make it tough on defense, and then execute. It created offensive layups and drives to get to the free-throw line,” Thomas said.
Watson added his own and-one with a shot off the glass through contact. Hargraves took his turn at the basket with a driving layup around the defense followed by a floater after a crossover at the free-throw line. He wrapped up the run and the half with a pair of free throws.
“(Hargraves) has really improved his game over the years. He’s a spark plug for us and does a lot of great things for us. He makes a lot of stuff happen for us, and he’s an aggressive guy. He has some toughness and some grit about him.”
Richland scored five straight points to cut its deficit to seven after the half, and Twin Rivers traded a couple of baskets before pulling away with its decisive run.
Twin Rivers will meet third-seeded Dexter in the quarterfinals of the winner’s bracket at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and Richland will face 14th-seeded Malden in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket at 1 p.m. Thursday.