Despite graduation, the beat goes on for the Richmond Hill High School girls’ basketball team.
The Lady Wildcats’ fast start after losing several starters off last year’s squad comes as no surprise to coach Elizabeth Bennett, whose team was 4-1 heading into Tuesday night’s contest at Liberty County.
“I expected (the fast start) because we’ve worked really hard in the last six years to build a program where we constantly have returners who will step in and play for us,” she said. “I actually have a team now that’s mostly made up of juniors and seniors. A lot of people don’t realize that, I think. They think we’re young because of the players we lost last year.”
Leading the way so far have been juniors Keeara Jackson, a 5-10 center, and guard Khadijah Scriven.
Jackson had 23 points and 20 rebounds in the team’s 45-40 loss to South Effingham on Saturday, a weird contest in which three players fouled out and two were injured, leaving the Lady Wildcats with only four players to finish the game. Scriven, who Bennett said is finally getting a chance to show her abilities, had 14 in RHHS’ 37-27 win Friday over Statesboro.
But injuries have been a problem for the Lady Wildcats, who were already without 6-1 senior Charmia Graham so far this season due to an injury, then lost guards Ciara Patrick and Kristen McCauley on Saturday night. Their status is uncertain.
On a positive note, Bennett expected sophomore Khyli McCauley back Tuesday night at Liberty County, and Graham, who was honorable mention All Region 2-AAAA last year, to return in January.
That could leave Bennett with even more lineup shuffles. She’s already gone with three different starting lineups through her team’s first five games – and that’s not a bad thing, she said.
“It’s because so many people are performing so well, not because they’re not performing,” she said. “I’m just really excited about our athleticism, our team and our height.”
Bennett, an English teacher who was named the 2012 district-wide Teacher of the Year, said she gives her team a B+ for its start.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of my kids,” she said. “We’ve still got to find some leadership. We’ve got two juniors as our captains and they're doing good jobs ... we’ve just got to get a little more experience under our belts.”
Bennett expects the Lady Wildcats to be among the top four programs in Region 3-AAAAA in its first year, along with Effingham, Bradwell and Groves. And on the heels of the program’s first ever region title last winter, she said she also takes a long view of Lady Wildcats’ basketball.
“I feel positive about our program and the fact we’ve hopefully built something that will sustain itself even when we lose five, six seniors,” Bennett said. “We might not come back the next year and win a championship, but we’ll always be able to fight and contend for one.”
The Lady Wildcats take on Groves on Friday at 7 p.m. at RHHS. The Wildcats play at 4 p.m.