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Finishing strong
Richmond Hill girls saving best basketball for last
RH girls 2
Senior center Jalisa Stevens works against a Panther defender during Richmond Hill's 44-34 win at Portal. - photo by Photo by Terry Logan

During halftime of a recent non-region visit to Portal High School Richmond Hill head coach Wade Wright encouraged his team to "finish what they started".

They did that Tuesday, winning the game after holding off a late Panther rally 44-34.

They did it again on Saturday, beating Jenkins to wrap up their regular season with a 48-28 win.

They entered the region tournament on Monday and did it again by defeating Thomson. Now they advance to the semifinals to try and put a grand finish on what they started.

As the third seed from the southern end of region 3-AAA, the Lady Cats played the north sixth seed, Thomson, and came away with a huge 49-29 first round region win. They will now need to win on Wednesday night at Cross Creek High School in Augusta against the number two seed Butler with a chance to move on to the state tournament for the first time in several years. Regardless of their post season success, Coach Wright and his team can look back and say they had a strong finish and successful year.

Kala Hires led all scorers against Thomson with 19 points. Jennifer Pellam and Tyler Carlson had 9 points each.

"We dictated the pace of the game," Wright said of the Thomson victory. "They wanted to press and run, but we played old school and won. What more can I say? We rebounded well, scored consistently and played defense well. The team has really come together and I couldn’t be more proud of them."

In last Tuesday’s game at Portal High School, Hires started breaking open a close game in the second period when she sank three, 3 pointers for 9 of her game high 18 points while the Wildcat man defense started clamping down.

Key among the Ladies late season wins has been their ability to overcome offensive dry spells by hold their opposition at bay while exercising some offensive patience. "Our goal was to win a 1-0 game, if we do our job on defense we only need a one point margin" explained coach Wright on his teams philosophy.

In the third period, it would be freshman Tyler Carlson that stepped up and got hot. She sank 8 of her 14 points in the period to help the ladies open a 33-21 lead at the end of the period. The obligatory full court press would follow.

Although the full court defense did increase the Wildcat turnovers in the fourth period, you never sensed panic. Portal pulled to within six points of the lead a couple of times but Richmond Hill made their free throws at the end to clinch it.

On Saturday, senior night, the season finale and last home game for the graduating players saw Richmond Hill welcome Jenkins to the court and, from the start, let them know they were not about to embarrass themselves on this night.

Kala Hires again started the team off by making three straight field goals. Richmond Hill was up 13-6 in the slow-paced first period as the Lady Warriors were pressing from the start. Richmond Hill was triangulating around the pressure, however, and getting some easy shots from underneath.

Senior center Jalisa Stevens, making her first start of the season, made one of those baskets in the period while their other twin tower, center Jennifer Pellam, added one too. All of the shots were not falling, however, and the Ladies squandered some good shot opportunities. It would be the defense that kept them in the lead.

The Wildcats did not allow a Jenkins field goal until only two and a half minutes were left in the half. The tight man defense was giving fits to the Warrior bench as they called timeout to try and stop the gradual increasing of the Wildcat lead. Richmond Hill would go to the locker room with a 28-8 lead.

Aside from the defense, the Wildcats late season success has also come from different sources. Hires has still been the go-to shooter but Sarah Reid, who sank two key three pointers against Jenkins, and Colleen Keller, with four forth period points, and freshman Tyler Carlson have made some key contributions on offense. The ladies have been finding the best shots available, regardless of who it might be, and taking advantage.

The Lady Wildcats played Wednesday, too late for our print deadline. Check back on the website later today to learn how they fared.

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