CUSTER | Heading into their showdown with Custer, Red Cloud knew that senior Duran Richards would only be available in spot duty due to injury.
With the way the Crusaders defended and how dominant Dominic Pilcher was down low, it did not matter one bit.
Which should be a scary notion to the rest of their opponents.
Pilcher and Falcon Albers stepped in and picked up the offensive slack, and their harassing defense never let Custer get anything rolling on offense, as Red Cloud trounced the Wildcats 70-46 Saturday night at the Custer Armory.
“We just wanted to send a message to the state that we’re not happy with being ranked No. 7, and we want to be higher,” Albers said.
That message was loud and clear, especially with Richards on the sideline for the majority of the game with a calf injury. He did score nine points, but the offense was generated from Pilcher all night.
“With Dom stepping up, they didn’t have an answer for him,” Red Cloud head coach Christian McGhee said. “I didn’t want to force it to him, but I wanted him to touch it. Because he might not score every time, but that will get the defense to suck in and get our shooters open.”
The senior Pilcher scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with 14 of those points coming in the second half when Red Cloud put it away early. Albers added 18 points, including four 3-pointers.
“We knew Duran was probably going to be out some of the time, so our game plan was to get it down to Dom,” Albers said. “I don’t know if anybody in the state can guard Dom when he’s down low.”
The Wildcats could only muster up four made field goals in the first half and just 22 points, as they were fortunate to get to the free-throw line 16 times, making 13 of them. Custer’s Chase Glazier did have 26 points, but only three other Wildcats scored a point, with Kenneth Myers adding 11 points.
Leading 34-22 at the start of the third quarter, Red Cloud twice extended the lead to 19, the second time coming from a Richards layup off a steal.
“I talked to Luitjens before the game and told him it was an honor to coach against him,” McGhee said. “I’ve played against as a player and now a coach, and I can tell why he has all those wins. I told him there’s a banner up there, and I’d like to have my banner up at Red Cloud some time.”
Red Cloud (8-2 overall) next will host Cheyenne-Eagle Butte on Monday, while Custer (7-4) has a home game with Douglas on Thursday.