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Balanced Richland boys take another step in win over Bald Eagle Area

Feb. 21—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Richland High School boys basketball team has settled into the system veteran coach John Fuschino implemented in his first season with the Rams program.

Richland's 58-46 victory over visiting Bald Eagle Area in the District 6 Class 3A playoff opener provided the latest evidence of the progress the Rams have made.

"We've taken a lot of steps toward growing together as a team," said junior forward Henry Levander, who led the eighth-seeded Rams with 18 points and added six rebounds.

"We're playing more as a team now than we were at the beginning of the season.

"We were playing a lot more sloppy, selfish, I guess. Now, we're coming together and we're playing great."

Richland has won four of its past five games and will take an 11-12 record into Friday's quarterfinal round at top-seeded Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (20-3).

The Marauders won the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference crown over Greater Johnstown this past Saturday.

"We have nothing to lose," said Fuschino, who has 151 career wins in nine seasons — with previous stops at Somerset, Windber and Greater Johnstown. "We'll give it everything we have.

"Our height will hopefully help a little bit. They're big.

"They're quick. They're a really good team. Obviously, it's going to be a tough game when you're the eight seed coming in. We have no pressure on us. We're going to give it our best shot."

The Rams mixed early long-range success with a strong inside game to build a 19-7 first-quarter advantage against the Bald Eagles. Luke Raho hit a pair of 3's and Glaiden Hale had seven points and four rebounds in the paint.

"They're buying into the system," Fuschino said. "It's taken us a while to get there. We've won four out of our last five games. We're getting the ball inside, out. Just like we've been practicing all year.

"It's coming together. The big guys are making some shots.

"We're looking to pass the ball outside and get open 3-pointers."

Ninth-seeded Bald Eagle Area (9-13) used a 16-9 margin in the second quarter to close within five points, 28-23, at halftime.

Wyatt Spackman's two free throws with 2:08 remaining in the opening half got the Bald Eagles as close as 25-21.

"Everybody's pitching in," Levander said. "Beginning of the season, we only had three or four main scorers. Points are spreading out.

"We have kids shooting more.

"We're driving more to the basket. I think we're coming together as a team and teamwork is getting us these wins."

In addition to Levander, Richland had double-digit scoring from senior guard Raho (14 points) and 6-foot-5 sophomore Hale (10 points). Hale had eight rebounds.

Bald Eagle Area closed within 29-25 on Kane Wolf's basket at 6:11 of the third. But Richland finished the quarter on a 13-3 run to take a 42-28 lead into the final eight minutes.

Bald Eagle Area outscored Richland 18-16 in the fourth to set the final. Sophomore Kane Wolf had a team-high 15 points, and senior Dru Smith scored 10 for the Bald Eagles.

"We rotated three big guys and each guy did a very good job," Fuschino said. "They feed off of each other. Give credit to our guards, getting the ball inside.

"We're getting the ball inside and throwing the ball back out more. We're reestablishing the post inside. The inside-out basketball, we're getting better."

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.