Both Richmond Hill coaches went in to their first game against two highly respected Liberty County teams with a sense of trepidation. Both came away with reasons to be proud of their efforts in spite of both suffering region 3-AAA losses to the Panthers.
For the girls a 55-44 loss left them with a 6-8 overall, 3-2 region record. The boys 61-54 shortfall has them at 9-6 overall, 1-4 in the region but both teams seem to be on the verge of turning a corner for the home stretch portion of their schedule.
Head coach Elizabeth Bennett afterward would lament that her team won the second half of the game but allowed their opponents to win the first.
"I’m pretty proud of the way we played them. If you could throw out that first period the game might have been a lot closer... We still have some issues with too many turnovers and making some of our shots, but on the defensive end we were OK."
The issues with turnovers had a lot to do with the way they handled the full court pressure Liberty County was doling out.
Even after Richmond Hill managed to get past half court the Lady Panther defenders were trapping the ball handlers and the diminutive Wildcat guards had a hard time finding open team mates.
That led to the 15-4 first period bulge that Bennett was alluding to and only good free throw shooting by Richmond Hill kept the margin from growing in the second.
In the third period Richmond Hill’s Tay Reynolds started exerting her influence and scored six of her 12 points.
The ladies gained a 17-16 edge in the period and improved that to 13-10 in the fourth but it was not enough to overcome their early failings.
Tyler Carlson finished with 14 points while Liberty County was led by Kourtney Alexander with 14 and Candace Barham with 12 points.
Head coach William Altman knew his squad also would have to reduce their turnovers and execute a game plan that would keep the score low and the highly talented Panthers at bay.
"Our kids played hard and executed the game plan. We had only 13 turnovers, which is under our average and important because great teams will always capitalize on them. We just couldn’t buy a basket in the third period and that was the difference, but I was extremely proud of our effort."
That third period saw Liberty County increase their lead from five points at the half to a 13 point lead at the end of the period.
Chakiris Moss led Richmond Hill in a furious fourth period rally scoring 16 of his game high 28 points, but it just wasn’t enough.
The much taller Panthers took advantage of baskets off some offensive rebounding but Richmond Hill’s George Greig also showed off some ability to stand inside with the big men as he had another good game rebounding for the Wildcats.
Liberty County’s Jordan McRae showed early why the University of Tennessee has signed him to a letter of intent when he opened the contest with four early field goals, two of them the 3 point variety.
He would finish with 25 points, in spite of the Wildcats holding him down somewhat in the second half.
That output negated Moss’s big night and his teammates Rion Brown finished with 13 and Terrell Johnson had 12. Zach Payne added 10 for the Wildcats.
After tonight’s contest at South Effingham, which tips off at 6 p.m., Richmond Hill will host Bryan County on Tuesday for the second installment of the annual county rivalry.
Game time is at 6 p.m.