With a 46-27 win over Cuyahoga Heights on Saturday, Richmond Heights’ girls’ basketball team clinched the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title.
The league championship is the first for Richmond Heights since the 2016 season.
“We’re just super excited about where we’re going with the program,” said Richmond Heights coach Eugene White. “We’re just glad to be able to at this time be 16-2 and for the first time in a long time to be ranked in the state.”
Richmond Heights was ranked fifth in the most recent AP Division IV state poll.
The Spartans endured some lean years since that last conference title seven years ago, but White knew his squad had better days ahead.
“My first year, I knew that I had an eighth grader in middle school that was coming up to the high school this year, and I knew that we had kids that would open enroll—we had a couple of kids right outside the district that wanted to come over with us for different reasons—but the most important thing is that we preach defense a lot. Last year, my first year, we didn’t really have depth. We had like six girls in the program, so we were very limited in what we could do.”
Depth hasn’t been a problem this season as the Spartans have 12 girls on their varsity roster and 10 will return next season, so the program is in good shape for the foreseeable future.
But the Spartans aren’t looking ahead just yet. They have lofty goals for their postseason run this season and each girl on the team has embraced her role and is all-in on leading the team to unprecedented success.
“We have built off that,” White said. “We have three good freshmen, two good sophomores, and two good juniors, so next year we only lose two kids. And then we have younger kids in the middle school ready to come up, so we’re just trying to keep it going.”
One thing White isn’t concerned with is his players being content with winning a conference title.
He knows just how competitive his squad is and he’s confident no moment will be too big for them down the stretch.
“We don’t feel like we’ve played that perfect game so there are some things we can continue to get better at,” he said. “We keep preaching that to them, and also, on Monday night, we’re going to go play Laurel, and we’ve played (Magnificat), and we play Brush, so if you start to get a big head, that brings you right back down to reality.”
Richmond Heights’ turnaround from a two-win season last year to 16 wins with four games left to play in the regular season this year might have come as a shock to some, but White saw things come together over the summer.
“Being 2-19 the year before, it’s kind of hard to get kids to really believe that things are going to be different this year,” he said. “I saw it in the summertime when we were playing summer league, and we just started jelling. I knew that this year could be a good year, but I didn’t think we’d be 16-2. I thought we would be a lot better than we were last year. I was a head coach for about 10 years at Lutheran East and we were really good, but we weren’t ranked in the state. Being here this year with a young group of kids, we’re No. 5 in the state and I’m excited about that and I get excited every day.”
White credits much of his team’s success to the program’s dedication to academics.
“We’re on our girls every week about academics,” he said. “We’re really big on that and we believe the way you are in the classroom is the way you are going to be on the basketball court. If you’re willing to put in the time in the classroom, then you’ll do it on the basketball court.”