Richfield demonstrated it is the class of the Classic Suburban conference when it beat Simley 63-37 on Friday at home. Richfield (9-1) retained sole possession of first place in the conference with the victory over second-place Simley (7-3).
“Our girls have played in big games [before],” Richfield head coach Scott Stadem said, “and they understood how important this game was in terms of the conference. We know how good Simley is.”
Senior guard Jessica January had a big impact. She had 16 first-half points as Richfield pulled away, using an 11-0 run to build an early lead it never gave back.
That stretch gave Richfield a 17-6 lead. Guard Sierra Ford-Washington hit a buzzer-beating shot to increase Richfield’s lead to 33-20 at halftime.
It was an important win for a team trying to return to the Class 3A championship game. Richfield lost to DeLaSalle in last year’s finals.
“It’s a big boost,” said January, who finished with 26 points. “To perform very well against a very good team, it’s a lot of confidence and a boost to perform well the next games we play.”
Richfield at times overwhelmed Simley with half-court and three-quarter-court pressure, and Richfield took advantage with lots of fast break points.
January called her team’s defense “the highlight” of the game.
“Our team defense was amazing,” January said. “That really led to a lot of transition and we just got out and made a whole bunch of layups and that really got us started.”
The pressure didn’t allow Simley to set up many of its offensive sets, Simley head coach Tim Peper said.
Offensively, January created enough separation from defenders to get her shot off.
“She is so hard to guard,” Stadem said. “Here’s this 5-9 kid who can jump out of the gym. Then she’ll pop a drop-fade on you at 17 and it’s just beautiful to watch,” Stadem said. “I’ve never coached a kid like that.”
Peper has coached girls’ basketball for seven years, six of them against January, he said.
“I’m excited for her to no longer be part of our conference,” Peper said, “because she is phenomenal.”
Simley had a size advantage inside, but Richfield effectively neutralized that advantage by clogging defensive passing lanes. Richfield sent help defenders to sag into the lane, frequently contesting and tipping passes for steals.
Stadem said he wanted to limit Simley’s chances in the paint. Simley has two post players – 6-1 Abby Kain and 6-3 Kylie Brown – that cause mismatches near the rim with their height. So Stadem sent help defenders often and he said he was happy with the way his team executed that game plan.