It was hard to tell there wasn't anything riding on the Richmond Academy boys' regular season finale with Laney on Friday night.
Richmond already had clinched the regular season Region 3-AAA title and the right to host next week's region tournament. But the Musketeers had to hold off a furious upset bid from second-place Laney to post a 72-68 victory.
The girls game seemed to be a game between two programs headed in opposite directions as Richmond Academy took advantage of a banged-up Laney squad and rolled to a 63-50 victory.
The Wildcats (18-7 overall, 10-2 Region 3-AAA) entered the game one game back of Richmond (18-5, 10-2) in the region standings but had no chance at first place even with a win over the Musketeers because ARC held the tie-breaker by beating Laney in the Richmond County Christmas Tournament.
But that didn't stop the Wildcats from trying to overthrow ARC. In a tight contest, the teams traded baskets and leads until the Musketeers took the lead for good in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Each time Laney made a run, Richmond found a way to keep itself in the lead. Kevin Mack's two free throws with 4:32 left gave ARC a 60-54 lead before Laney came charging back with a 6-0 run, using two baskets off the bench from Mike Johnson and a layup from Latavis Walker to tie the game.
Laney took the lead on Leon Paschal's two free throws to make it 62-61, but Juvares Safford killed the Wildcats with back-to-back 3-point baskets to propel the Musketeers to the victory.
"Jake ran hard this week in practice, and I told him games are won in practice," ARC coach Robert Rhodes said. "Tonight in the fourth quarter, he had some fresh legs, and those baskets were huge for us."
Both Richmond and Laney, which finished 1-2 in the standings, earn first-round byes in the region tournament.
In the girls game, Laney had already clinched the region tournament's top seed and a berth in the state tournament when Jefferson County beat Washington County Tuesday night.
But ARC's girls established themselves as a team to be reckoned with in next week's region tournament, forcing 16 Laney turnovers several bad shots.
"Laney can be intimidating," said Richmond Academy girls coach Pat Rivers. "I thought the girls played real well as a team, but it was a battle."
Lady Wildcat coach Otis Smart didn't like the idea of dropping two of his final three games to end the regular season, and he especially didn't want to lose to Richmond Academy (11-12, 7-5).
ARC gave Laney all it could handle before the Lady Wildcats defeated the Lady Musketeers 64-54 on Jan. 16.
"I knew they have a good team, and they stayed close with us the last time we played them at their place," Smart said. "I knew they had a team that could beat us, but I didn't tell our girls that."
Part of Laney's sluggishness stemmed from the lack of leading scorer Sheena Freeman, who watched the game in street clothes, nursing a knee injury, and second leading scorer Nafeesah Ameen, who was unable to play.
Laney (19-6, 10-2) tied the game at 20 to open the second quarter on Samantha West's jump shot. After an ARC turnover, Tiffany Bush's bucket gave the Lady Wildcats the lead at 22-20.
But Bridgette Cates drained a 3-pointer, and after a Laney miss, Cates drilled another 3-point basket as the Lady Musketeers slowly pulled away. Laney never led again.
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