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The road more traveled
Richmond Hill basketball squads will spend plenty of time as the visiting team as regular season win
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Richmond Hill High Schools Hannah Riley (15) Keeara jackson (50), Khadijah Screven (4), Brandy Franklin and Kristen McCauley keep their eyes on the ball during the Lady Wildcats 50-38 loss to Bradwell Institute on Friday. The Lady Wildcats will play most of the rest of the season on the road. - photo by Julia Harison

Richmond Hill High School’s basketball teams still have a good amount of basketball left to play before the Region 3-AAAAA tournament in February.

Most of it will be played somewhere else.

All but three of the two teams’ final 12 games are on the road, a trend that started Tuesday night with a trip to Ware County. Richmond Hill is at Effingham County on Friday night, then travels to Vidalia on Saturday.

Welcome to the road more traveled. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s not all bad, either.

“I think home court advantage is very important,” said first-year boys coach William Henderson. “When we’re playing at home the players are able to get into a routine and obviously playing in our own gym with our fans helps as well. However, I do believe that going on the road can help a struggling team, and a lot of times roads games are great opportunities for the team to regain focus.”

The Wildcats (4-8, 1-3), are struggling. Though Richmond Hill nearly came back from a 27-point deficit on Friday against visiting BI before falling 80-73, the Wildcats have lost five straight after a 63-42 setback at Statesboro the following night.

Henderson, a former RHHS guard, said playing on the road eliminates some of the distractions his players might face. But that won’t change the way the Wildcats get ready for games.

“Our preparation won’t necessarily change,” he said. “We will still have our game plan that we want to follow in order to be successful. We’ll need to continue to focus on the areas of the game that we can control and not allow ourselves to get caught up in any distractions, such as opposing fans, etc.”

The Lady Wildcats (8-3, 3-1) also are looking to break a losing skid after dropping back-to-back games to BI and Statesboro last weekend. Though the 2011-12 Region 2-AAAA champs are still considered one of the teams to beat in 3-AAAAA, the Lady Wildcats are in a rebuilding year after losing a number of starters off last season’s squad.

Coach Elizabeth Bennett said playing on the road isn’t easy, “but we are going to have to buckle down and get it done,” she said, noting she does coach differently on the road. “As I coach I tend to be less conservative in my calls. We play a little more aggressively from the start in order to force the other team out of their comfort zone.”

And Bennett said she thinks the road-heavy schedule the Lady Wildcats face down the stretch should benefit her players.

“Playing on the road is going to be a huge advantage for us because we need to learn how to play on the road and we can only gain that ability through experience,” Bennett said. “We are going to play the tournament on the road at Effingham, so this will prepare us for the next step in the season.”

Weekend action

Bradwell Institute used an early barrage of 3-pointers to jump all over the Wildcats in the boys’ matchup on Friday night.

The Tigers put up leads as large as 27 points in the first half. But sparked by 32 points from Jeremiah Hill, Hill had five 3-pointers in the fourth period, Richmond Hill clawed back to make it more than respectable in an 80-73 loss.

Henderson said the team’s extended holiday break may have hampered his team somewhat. Prior to Friday’s game, the Wildcats hadn’t played since Dec. 15.

“The long layoff may have played a part in us coming out flat in the first quarter,” Henderson said. “It is hard to replicate the speed of the game in practice during scrimmages, especially when dealing with the quickness of a team like Bradwell.”

Henderson also pointed to a lack of communication and poor play on defense and “that combined with their hot shooting got them off to a quick start that we weren’t able to fully recover from.”

Yet he also found positives in the loss to BI, which is off to one of its best starts in years.

“I’m really proud of the way our guys never quit and continued to play hard and fight their way back into the game,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want to be in positions where we are having to come back from 30-point deficits, but I think it showed a lot about what kind of kids we have and what they could possibly accomplish when giving 100 percent. We’ve hurt ourselves in a lot of games this year by having one bad quarter, and unfortunately that showed itself again this weekend.”

The Wildcats led Statesboro at the end of the first period in Saturday’s 63-42 loss, but the Blue Devils (11-5) outscored RHHS 35-14 over the next two periods. Hill paced the Wildcats with 15 points while Nick Fitzgerald added 10 and Daniel Wilder finished with nine.

In the girls’ matchup Friday, Richmond Hill missed 19 of 31 free throws and appeared sluggish early in the team’s 50-38 loss to Bradwell.

Keera Jackson led RHHS with 24 points. She was the only player in double figures for the Lady Wildcats.

Bennett said she didn’t think the holiday layoff was responsible for the team’s performance against BI.

“I don’t want to blame it on not playing for a couple weeks,” Bennett said. “We practiced more this break than I ever have. But we missed 19 free throws. You can’t miss 19 free throws and expect to win.”

Richmond Hill fell 45-39 to Statesboro on Saturday.

Earlier in the season the Lady Wildcats downed the Lady Blue Devils 37-27 in Richmond Hill.

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