It has been a season of firsts for Richmond Hill basketball.
First season in a new and larger region, 2A-AAAA.
New teams, new faces, coaches and new locations and places to travel.
Richmond Hill’s boys defeated a familiar team, Liberty County, for the first time since head coach William Altman has been here.
The Wildcats may not meet Altman’s goal of winning his first region championship this season but they have emerged this season as one of the top teams in the coastal empire.
Not since the days of Jimmy Hires' reign as head coach has the Wildcat Gym been as feared a place for visiting teams.
Big wins over Liberty County, Ware County, Glynn County and a heartbreaking last-second loss to first place Brunswick on Friday at the Wildcat Gym have added fuel to that notion. The Wildcats will host Wayne County this Friday in hopes of avenging an earlier loss in Jesup, but now must prepare to hit the road to face these same teams.
The Wildcats have been without their last shot hero of the Liberty County game, starting point guard Lorenza Ross. Even though he dressed for Brunswick he did not play. Richmond Hill could use his floor presence as one of the top assist leaders in the area down the stretch.
James Franklin and Alex Cruz have managed to make Ross’ absence a minimal interruption. Vernon Jackson and D’Angelo Johnson have stepped up as well and are among the rebounding leaders of the area. Brandon Jordan isn’t far behind. But one of the key strengths for the Wildcats this season has been their team defense.
The Wildcats lead the region in defense with a 49 points allowed per game average and the 48-46 loss to Brunswick was the only game where maintaining that average has not resulted in a win.
Richmond Hill is now 13-5, 3-2 and a game behind second place Glynn.
After the Wayne game Friday the Wildcats will be at Bryan County Saturday.
On the girls' side, it seems patience has been a virtue as the Lady Wildcats are starting to hit their stride.
“We are still trying to find our game sometimes but our hustle has been able to overcome what ever we lack in ability,” said head coach Elizabeth Bennett after her teams big win against Brunswick on Friday. While there is no doubt hustle has played a part some bigger pieces seem to be falling in place for the Lady Wildcats.
Aliyah Johnson’s on court confidence has been growing stronger by the game. It can be seen in her free throw shooting, her offensive patience and in her willingness to take control when her team needs it. And according to Bennett that leadership continues when she steps off the court.
Sydney Millek has recently added an outside threat that has paid off in her recent double figure average. Keeara Jackson’s 20 points against Brunswick came mostly when the Lady Wildcats were able to break the Lady Pirates press and find their center underneath. Something Richmond Hill has historically had problems doing in the past.
Defense and the “hustle” have been provided by Sarah Goolsby, Tay Reynolds, and Ashley Scriven who has helped fill in for injured point guard Keisha Durham.
By virtue of the win against Brunswick Richmond Hill, (9-8, 3-2) is in a second place tie with Brunswick one game behind Glynn Academy in the region standings but now must go on the road for four of their last five region contests. They will host Wayne County on Friday. Then travel to Bryan County to take on the state ranked Lady Redskins a suitable warmup for the tough task of running back through the region schedule on the road.