By Charlie Moon, Lowcountryradio.com.
The Richmond Hill High School men (17-3) and women (15-5) Wildcat basketball teams have combined for the most regular season wins in program history and are set for conference tourney play beginning tonight, Thursday, Feb. 11.
The Lady Cats finished 8-4 in conference play and earned a No. 3 seed, while the Men finished 9-3 and garnered a No. 2 seed.
And don’t forget, in GHSA basketball, it makes no difference how you fared in regular season play. State Playoff seeding is 100 percent predicated on what you do in your conference tournaments.
So, how did both squads finish the regular season?
MEN Saturday, Feb.6 Glynn Academy 40 - No. 5 Richmond Hill 38.
Tuesday, Feb. 9 No. 15 Effingham County 80 - No. 5 Richmond Hill 71.
The Wildcats had a No. 1 seed in their grasp. They only needed two wins against Glynn and Effingham. After beating both teams by 20 and 17 respectively, earlier in the season, most outsiders would say easy, right?
That’s not how it worked out.
Right off the top of our Lowcountryradio.com Tip-off Show, LCR color analyst Brock Vaigneur and I posed the question of whether it would be a “sandwich” game.
Well, I called it a “sandwich” game. Vaigneur said he had never heard of that. We quipped for two minutes. I told him it was the equivalent of a “trap” game. When you tune into Lowcountryradio.com, you never know what you’re gonna get! We take our broadcasts seriously, but have a blast doing it.
After beating Brunswick by 20 the previous night at home, and with Effingham County on deck, it was dangerous.
But Coach Bill Henderson said it was neither.
“We didn’t show up to play against a good team and got exposed. We didn’t do a great job executing on the offensive end, and I have to do a better job of putting guys in positions to be successful. We knew coming in that it was a big game for Glynn Academy, and unfortunately we weren’t able to match that level of play. We have talked about it a lot this year, but we have to be more consistent if we are going to continue to extend our season.”
Call it the nasty, gloomy Saturday weather, a trap game or anything else. The Cats had their lowest offensive output of the season.
Red Terror HC Terrance Haywood deserves credit for game-planning the defensive effort, but Effingham County’s HC Jake Darling didn’t have to worry about the other side of the game plan. Rebel guards Caleb Williams, Keion Wallace and Timothy Brown literally could have thrown up shots with their eyes closed.
The first half got ugly – real ugly – to the tune of an 18-point deficit with 2:00 left in the first half. And honestly, Vaigneur and I wondered on air about where the #2 ranked Wildcat team from just two weeks prior had gone. They had lost two of their last four, after being Georgia’s lone remaining undefeated team at 16-0. The fire and emotion was gone.
That ended with a first half-ending 6-2. It may not seem much, but it lit a spark and continued into the second half. The Cats returned their former style of being aggressive to the basket, making things difficult on shooters and crashing the boards.
The Cats battled from an 18-point deficit to just 2 points, with 2:30 left in the game. Effingham knocked down late free throws en route to the win. But, the big positive was, the Wildcats had regained their spark, heading into the Region Tournament.
LADIES Tuesday, Feb. 9 No. 13 Richmond Hill 60 Effingham County 8.
No, that’s not a misprint! The Rebels have only won two games all season long, and we knew it was going to be ugly. But I don’t think anyone could have predicted this. It is hard to get good take-aways from a game like this, but there was one. Starting Forward Senior Kyra Finley led the offense with 16 points, but HC Sarah Jones started emptying the bench just minutes into the game. Young players like Sophomores Savannah Gravitt and Haley Everett and Freshman Kayden Lawrence saw much of the playing time. In fact, Lawrence and Gravitt got some airtime on Low Country Radio in post-game interviews.
Heading into Region Tourney play as the No. 3-seed, the Lady Cats find themselves 8-0 against the No. 4-7 teams, but 0-4 against the top seeds – Statesboro and Brunswick. But Sarah Jones knows they have a great shot.
“We’ve been in all 4 match ups until the end. The last Statesboro game got away from us at the end, but poor shooting did not help us. In both Brunswick games we had the last possession and only down three. We were just unable to score. I think for us, it is just a matter of working hard and playing our best ball and trying to be 1-0 every night and knowing if we play good defense and execute offensively that we give ourselves a chance to win at the end against a good team.”
The Region 2-AAAAAA Tourney will have an entirely different feel since forming in 2016-2017.
Until now, there have only been 5 teams. GHSA reclassification occurs every two years. This year, it bumped Statesboro and South Effingham into Class AAAAAA. The GHSA state tournament is comprise of the top four teams from each region. That addition required two major region tournament changes. One, the format will change. Until now, the 4 and 5 seeds have competed in a play-in game before semis. Plus, both men and women tournaments were played at the same site, alternating between men and women regular season conference champs.
How it will look now: The 7 seeds (South Effingham men and Effingham women) are eliminated from tourney play. The 1 and 2 seeds get a 1st round bye. Quarterfinals will consist of the #3-#6 seeds, hosted by the #3 seed. So, what does this exactly look like?
Richmond Hill’s men get a first round bye.
The women will play host to South Effingham at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the quarterfinals. If they win, take on No. 2 seed Brunswick at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Statesboro.
Also on Friday, Richmond Hill’s men will play the winner of Effingham County vs. Bradwell at 5 p.m. in Statesboro.
The championship and consolation games will be played Feb. 16.