OBETZ — Will Riffle was ready to make his dream come true.
With the Amanda-Clearcreek senior two points away from reaching 1,000 for his career on Thursday evening, coach Cody Carpenter drew up a play to make history.
“Once I scored my first two points, coach called a play there to set me up so I could attack the rim,” Riffle said. “I just attacked the rim as hard as I could, and it happened.”
The Mid-State League Buckeye Division game against host Hamilton Township was stopped with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter following Riffle’s drive to the basket, so he could receive congratulations from his teammates and coaches, hug his family and receive a standing ovation from the Amanda-Clearcreek faithful, who held up wooden handles adorn with the senior’s portrait.
“That moment was everything I wanted and a dream come true,” Riffle said. “It was nice to be able and share it with the people who have made this possible for me — my teammates, coaches, my parents and my brother, and our fans. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Riffle becomes just the third player in program history to accomplish the milestone, joining Chris Rollins (2000-03, 1,127 points) and Jimi Anderson (1999-2002, 1,110).
“It was a special moment for Will, for our players and coaches and for our program to see Will do something that only two other players in our program’s history have been able to accomplish,” Carpenter said. “It was a milestone that he’s earned and deserves.
“I also appreciate Hamilton Township stopping the game for us and giving Will the game ball. That was first-class.”
Riffle leads the Aces with 15.3 points per game and is second on the team in rebounds (8.1) and assists (2.6).
Carpenter complimented Riffle on his skill set and coachability.
“Will is so good at every phase of the game, starting with being a physical player and finishing around the rim,” he said. “He’s also been very coachable, to where I can rip him and he can take it and get better.
“I’ve really enjoyed coaching Will for the last four years, but we just want this to be the start of more things to come, hopefully with finishing the regular-season strong and then winning some games in the tournament.”
Riffle has helped the Aces transition from league basement dweller back to respectability over the course of his high school career.
As part of the youngest team in the league during his freshman season, Riffle bought into the vision Carpenter had for Amanda-Clearcreek’s boys basketball program.
“That was a tough season, because we were so young and inexperienced. We took our lumps,” said Riffle of the Aces’ 1-22 season in 2016 when they started two freshmen and two sophomores. “We learned a lot about what it takes to play varsity basketball that season and what we needed to do to have success.
“Coach Carpenter talked about building a basketball culture here and having a team that the community could be proud of, so I dreamed about helping to turn around the program and eventually scoring 1,000 points.”
The Aces went from one win in 2016, to eight in 2017 and posted their first winning record since 2012 last season with a 12-11 record. With three games left in the regular-season, the Aces currently stand at 12-7.
Riffle started his varsity career playing at point guard as a freshmen and sophomore, which came with a diverse set of responsibilities.
“I didn’t look to score as much during my first two seasons, because I was playing point guard and had to handle the basketball and get us in our offense,” Riffle said. “Also, I wasn’t as strong back then, so I shot more threes than I do now, because it was tougher to get to the basket.
“My teammates and coaches have pushed me to become a better player, from Coach Carpenter to Coach (Austin) Smith, Coach (Jamie) Justus, who used to be on the staff, and others.”
Riffle moved off the point last season with the addition of Jayse Miller, so the Aces could better utilize his scoring ability.
“Will struggled some in his freshman season, but he kept working and kept working and he developed into our top player,” Carpenter said. “His production has steadily increased by the season and he does a lot of different things for us on the court.”
Riffle didn’t play football this fall, so he could focus on preparing for basketball. He hit the weight room to get stronger and also played in the 270 Fall League, where his team finished second in the tournament.
“I got to play against kids who were taller and more athletic than I was, so that forces you to adapt so you can continue and be successful,” Riffle said. “I’ve improved on driving to the basket and being able to finish through contact, because I’ve worked a lot in the weight room and had to play against better players.”
With his senior season winding down, Riffle wants to make the second part of Carpenter’s vision a reality.
“When I first started playing in high school, we’d have like 30 or 40 people go to our away games,” Riffle said. “We’ve come a long way since then and the community has embraced us.
“I’m glad I got to score 1,000 points in my career, but I’m also glad it’s behind the team and me. I’ve been wanting to get this, my teammates have been wanting me to get this and, now, we can put this behind us and focus solely on what’s ahead. We want to win some games in the tournament and take our program to the next level.”