Richmond Hill lost 68-58 Thursday night at home to Lakeside Evans in the Sweet 16 of the AAAAAA state basketball tournament, marking the first time since 1994 that the Wildcats reached the second round.
"I'm super proud of these guys," Coach Bill Henderson said afterward. "I don't think anyone expected us to be the No. 2 seed coming out of our region or to get to the second round. Our nine seniors have laid a foundation for this program for the guys coming up."
Turnovers and poor free throw shooting ended up being the difference, Henderson said.
"When you get to the post-season, every free throw is important and every possession is important," he said.
The Wildcats were 11-of-21 from the line and committed 12 turnovers in the first half alone as the Panthers built a 33-20 lead.
"You get down by that many points and you have to exert a lot of energy to come back," Henderson said. "We were able to do that but then ran out of gas."
A steal and a dunk by Sam James with a minute left in the third quarter pulled Richmond Hill to within three, 40-37, but Lakeside scored on a quick lay-up and a three-pointer at the buzzer, taking a 45-37 lead into the last quarter.
James finished with 25 points. Brett Fischer had 11 and Brandon Beckwith added eight.
The Wildcats were able to get within six points several times in the fourth quarter, but had to foul Lakeside as the clock ticked down. The Panthers responded by hitting eight out of 10 free throws in the final minute.
"We had opportunities against their pressure that we didn't take advantage of," Henderson said. "They spread us out on defense and hit their shots."
The Wildcats finish the season at 16-12. Along with James and Beckwith, Richmond Hill's other seniors are D.J. Lewis, Justin Jeffery, Kasey Green, Jeremy Foster, Seun Oguntunmibi, Eric Jones and Thomas O'Neil.