Fri Jan 22nd, 2016
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, Bobcat, Carlos Herrera, chris valdez, Class 2A State Basketball Championship, IHS, Keegan Richmond, Lawrence Valdez, Michael D. Palm Theatre, MinerDome, Mitchell Neil, Pagosa, Richmond, Telluride, Telluride High School, Tim Velasquez, tucker ward, wyatt hayes
JV guard steals the show in T-ride
Site of world-premiere movie viewings and stage productions throughout the years, the Michael D. Palm Theatre sits just a narrow, connected hallway’s walk east from Telluride High School’s MinerDome.
And in a truly class move on Saturday, Jan. 16, THS head coach Stefan Reiter’s timeout – thought called by Ignacio’s Chris Valdez by most fans in attendance – late in a lopsided 2A/1A San Juan Basin League loss set up the ultimate ending to a script-worthy performance leaving not only IHS assistant Johnny Valdez but also the skipper teary-eyed as though their boys had won the Class 2A State Basketball Championship.
Not once but incredibly twice, and each occasion punctuated by an unlikely hero born to be a Bobcat.
“You know, [Reiter] came to me before the game and goes, ‘Coach if you need to get that kid in the game to score …’ or whatever and I thought that was fantastic,” Chris Valdez said.
“Oh, that was nice,” agreed senior guard Tucker Ward. “We just wanted to get the lead early so we could get him the ball to get a shot off.”
Or more accurately, the varsity players and coaches wanted an encore from Keegan Richmond.
Guest-starring as himself in a backcourt role usually reserved for accomplished gunners like Wyatt Hayes, Ward or Anthony Manzanares, the younger brother of two former IHS standouts brought the house down with the hottest shooting hand even his own mother could recall having seen.
Donning oldest sibling Shane’s senior-year No. 10 for his first-act appearance, but unable to fully extend his right heel down to the court, ‘Keegs’ canned consecutive three-pointers off the right wing (with the Ignacio bench roaring him on from behind) to assure Ignacio of a 59-32 junior-varsity win earlier that day.
“Well the first time, I went in and passed up the shot,” Richmond said. “And Coach [Tim Velasquez] told me, ‘Take that! You’re open enough; knock it down!’ So that’s what I did the next time, and I was able to.”
In a perfect costume-change coincidence, he was given No. 33 – a ‘3’ for each trey – for his varsity cameo, which actually began with him receiving the officials’ pregame instructions with the other Cat captains.
After a long wait, Reiter’s stoppage came with just over two minutes left and it was ‘Lights, camera (or in this case, many), action!’ again for the sophomore, by now fully knowing what everyone wanted to witness.
He did not disappoint. After catching a baseball-style outlet pass after a Miner’s free throw at the opposite end, Richmond put in his second chance at a close-range basket to secure some scorebook ink but wasn’t finished. Able to hop back to the other end and the front of IHS’ 2-3 zone defense, Richmond soon snared another bomb following a Telluride charity chuck and set up almost in the exact spot where he’d caught fire before.
His third attempt of the day from beyond the arc was unsuccessful, but after an offensive rebound retained possession, his fourth had every red-and-black backer ready to storm the court in celebration.
“It was just a feeling after the release … that it was going to go in,” a grinning Richmond recalled, another date with doctors hoping to relieve and realign a nerve distressed by a bone malformation – Richmond described it as “like a knuckle” – in his back seemingly as far from his mind as possible.
“I’m going to have surgery the 25th of this month, so it’s not exactly my last game,” he said. “My last game will be against Pagosa [1/23], the C-team game. I’ll just … play my game and shoot the ball as well as I can!”
“He earned the three-pointer there at the very end,” stated Valdez. “Got in, found a spot and knocked one down! You could see there’s an issue with him, and he deserved what he got.”
“Especially with all the things he’s been through, you know, surgery-wise,” Velasquez said, knowing his player will have endured at least five procedures. “It’s great to get him on the floor and contribute to the team.”
“Having those young guys that really haven’t been playing or scoring a lot contribute … support each other is huge. Because we’re a family, a brotherhood, and that’s how we do things.”
“It was nice to see that everyone got the chance to play and score,” freshman JV-varsity swing guard Lawrence Valdez – who’d began the JV contest converting a rare four-point play – said, alluding to the fact that Richmond’s makes helped inspire others (Carlos Herrera drained a later three from the right corner, and Mitchell Neil ended the scoring with a free throw) to find their shine.
“We just wanted to make opportunities for everyone, and for all of us to be successful as a team.”
“Nobody appreciates him more,” said Chris Valdez, speaking for the entire Bobcat Basketball program.