Richmond has never lost a conference tournament game and the Spiders have never not made the NCAA Tournament. These are facts -- ridiculous ones -- that are beyond truth following Richmond's somewhat surprising 8-7 defeat of High Point in the Atlantic Sun Tournament championship.
The Spiders entered the weekend as the postseason's four-seed, shellacking Mercer in the semifinals to earn a berth in the league's championship game. Facing the Panthers, a team that handed Richmond a four-goal defeat in mid-April, the Spiders showed poise in a spot that exceeded the program's 16-game existence. Mitchell Goldberg deposited the game-winning goal for Richmond with 3:21 remaining in regulation, but it was the build to Goldberg's tally that is especially interesting -- the Spiders never trailed High Point and impressively rebounded from a late surge from the Panthers.
Holding a three-goal lead early in the third period, Dan Lomas pulled High Point within two with 7:32 remaining in the penultimate quarter. Richmond quickly responded with a tally from Brad Burnam on a Jean-Luc Chetner -- that name should come with a wine cellar -- helper, giving the Spiders a 6-3 lead. The Panthers punched back, though, stringing together three consecutive goals over the final 1:50 of the third period and first 3:50 of the final quarter -- an explosion in just 5:40 of play -- that knotted the scoreboard at six. High Point was asserting itself at the apex of the game, and yet Richmond was able to play a huge trump card that changed the momentum of the contest: Goldberg, driving from behind the cage with a mark draped on him, whipped an amazing behind-the-back pass toward the crease where Dan Ginestro finished with a pure diving goal. The tally came with fewer than four minutes gone from Lomas' game-tying, signaling that Richmond would refuse to kiss anyone's ring (other than their own).
The Spiders weren't content to merely bleed the clock to triple zeros, though. Goldberg -- who finished with two goals and an assist on the day -- dropped a hammer on the Panthers with less than four minutes on the clock, burying a ball past Austin Geisler to give Richmond a decisive two-goal advantage. Matt Thistle would answer Goldberg's bucket less than a minute later, but it would not be enough for the Panthers to change destiny: A series of traded possessions eventually ended with back-and-forth 60-yard heaves that did not impact Richmond's one-goal margin in bright white lights.
It wasn't easy for Richmond, both in the game and over the course of their 2014 campaign, but the Spiders earned a May adventure through grit, guile, and probably magic powers.
TRUNCATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE
|Raw Offensive Efficiency||22.86||20.00|
|Raw Offensive Shooting Rate||22.86%||33.33%|
|Shots per Offensive Opportunity||1.00||0.60|
|Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities||42.86||57.14|
|Run-of-Play Groundballs per 100 Possessions||31.43||27.14|
|Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities||40.00||37.14|
|Team Save Percentage||66.67%||61.90%|