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LCR wrap up: Wildcats drop first game, ranked No. 4; ladies 14-4
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By Charlie Moon,

Both the Richmond Hill High School men and women’s squads are sitting in good places for the final regular season stretch heading into tourney play. The Cats host Brunswick Friday night in crucial games for both teams. Wanna know why? Well, just keep on reading, folks.

No. 4 Richmond Hill Men 16-1 (7-1) At No. 8 Statesboro 54 #2 Richmond Hill 49.

 Let me hear a serious ovation from Wildcat Nation for the AAAAAA No. 4-ranked men’s team undefeated run that finally ended with a 54-49 loss at #8 Statesboro Friday night. Seriously, stand up and clap. Don’t be embarrassed!

Heading into the battle at Lee Hill Arena, the Cats were the lone remaining undefeated team in the entire state, regardless of classification. Senior star point guard Jaden Marshall was out, the previous game against S. Effingham and also missed the Statesboro game. The Cats looked totally out of sorts all night long, but pulled out a late win against the Mustangs. Let’s be clear.

If that same effort showed at Statesboro, they would have been run out of Lee Hill Arena.

However, the Cats showed great improvement greatly in their nine off days without Marshall. Isiah Allen came off the bench in Marshall’s slot and gave a defensive spark, holding a team that averaged 76 points, to just 54 points and 36% from the floor. With just over 2:00 left, the Blue Devils’ Koby Altman knocked down two 3-pointers to give Statesboro a 4 point lead.

After the Cats Leighton Finley scored, and a defensive stop, the Cats were inbounding the ball with less than :30 left, in the ‘Boro. Blue Devils coach Keith Legree made a great move. He called for a double team trap to deny point guard Nijajuan Youmans the inbound pass. Cats HC Bill Henderson called a timeout of his own and drew up a play for the ages. With former Cats QB Isiah Allen inbounding from the same corner, all Richmond Hill players were on the Statesboro side of half court. Finley set a screen to get Braden Baker loose around the timeline, on….let’s call it full-court curl route. Allen made a perfect 80-foot bomb to Baker, but let’s give credit due to Statesboro defender Willie Ballard.

As well as Henderson drew up the play and the Cats executed it, Ballard made an even better play, barely getting a finger on the ball that looked like a perfect “go-route” down the gridiron sideline to the pylon. It would have been an easy layup for Baker.

Cats HC Bill Henderson on the big play: “We thought that we might have an opportunity to beat Statesboro deep on the out of bounds play. The guys did a great job executing coming out of the timeout, and it almost really paid off for us. A lot of credit has to go to (Ballard) who never quit on the play and was able to knock the ball out of bounds to take away the scoring opportunity. We had some opportunities late that we didn’t take advantage of, and in the end, we just made too many mistakes to beat a team that is as good as Statesboro.”

On the ensuing inbound pass, Baker slipped on a wet floor and the pass bounced out of bounds. Statesboro hit their free throws to finish off the Cats, 54-49.

No. 4 Richmond Hill 55 Bradwell 37 

The question remained. Was Marshall coming back? Make no mistake.

The Cats proved at Statesboro, they had much gas in the tank if Marshall was not available. The good thing is, none of that will matter, because he was back in action against Bradwell on Tuesday night in a 55-37 win.

The first half was ugly.

When you’re among the top teams in the state, everyone is going to give you their best shot.

Bradwell played with tons of energy and the Cats looked lethargic for the first time all year, with little to no emotion. That focused intensity from the Statesboro game was gone.

At the 5:00 mark in the 2nd quarter, Bradwell had a 13-12 lead. However, some of that spark came back in a late 1st half spurt that gave the Cats a 22-17 halftime lead. That continued for the rest of the night. In the 2nd half, Richmond Hill forced 11 turnovers enroute to the 55-37 win.

The Cats are still control their own destiny for the Conference 1-seed heading into conference tourney play next week.

If they win out, they earn that 1-seed with the point differential tie-breaker.

Three weeks ago, the Cats beat the Blue Devils by 10 and lost to them by 5 last Friday.

Lady Cats #12 13-4 (7-3) #8 16-0 (8-0) Statesboro 43- Cats 26.

 Coach Sarah Jones knew the Cats would have to be great defensively to slow down the Blue Devils pressure style play. That, they did, stymieing them to just 43 points – 14 below their conference average. In fact, they held Statesboro to just 17 first half points.

Kyra Finley was lights out defensively, holding star point guard and D-1 Madison Lee to a goose egg through three quarters. Lee is ranked in the Top 5 among Georgia lady point guards. Finley was in her grill all night long and frustrated Lee into making bad shots.

Brock Vaigneur,’s color analyst questioned why Statesboro was not running their vaunted full court press.

“I don’t get it at all.

They’ve got such a deep bench with so many great athletes. It gives everybody fits.” Lady Blue Devils HC Marty Holder must have been tuned into Lowcountryradio. com at halftime, because they came out pressing like they were trying to squash a bug.

It worked.

Halfway through the 3rd quarter, they had stretched a tight 4-point lead to 12 points. The deep bench and pressure defense of the Blue Devils finally got to the Cats. Plus, the Cats had no answer for the other Statesboro D-1 prospect, Jamiah Jones. Jones poured in 23 points.

Cats 61 – Bradwell Institute 41

 So, what do you do when you only muster 26 points at Statesboro?

Jones must have had the answer, because the Ladies had their highest output of the season.

“We did not shoot the ball well at all against Statesboro, even under the basket. Monday, that was a big emphasis during practice, to make sure that we are taking good shots and finishing under the basket. I thought we did a really good job of that as we shot 46% against Bradwell. We just have to make sure that we keep up the consistency offensively.”

Kyra Finley had a double- double with 17 points and 13 boards. Azaria Johnson also poured in 17 points.

Conference Tourney seeding implications for both squads Both men and women’s squads have a critical final regular season stretch to retain 1st round byes.

As RH Athletic Director Mickey Bayens noted on Tuesday night, because Region 2-AAAAA realignment added South Effingham and Statesboro, the conference tourney will look and feel differently. No longer, will the tourney have one host.

That’s logistically unfeasible, since most games are played on weekdays and school days would be missed.

The tourney is set Monday – Thursday, beginning February 15. The 1st seeds get a 1st round bye, while the 7th seed is eliminated. Past that, we’ll list exact schedules next week.

Jones knows how crucial the Friday, February 5 match-up against #9 ranked Brunswick.

“We are currently sitting 1 game behind Brunswick (8-2) at 7-3.

If we beat Brunswick on Friday, that would put us tied for 2nd (and it would come down to the last game of the season).

Getting that 2 seed would be huge, as it gives you a first round bye in the region tournament and an automatic bid into the state tournament.”

A big plus? Brunswick plays Statesboro in that last regular season game, while the Cats get a weak Effingham County team.

Upcoming: Friday, February 5 @ 5:45 Home vs. Brunswick (Men/Women’s DH) Saturday, February 6 @ 4:45 Home vs. Glynn Academy (Men/Women’s DH) Tuesday, February 9 @ 5:45 at Effingham County (Men/Women’s DH)

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