In what proved to be the final game of the season for a Bryan County basketball team, sophomore Elijah Mincey’s 33 points weren’t enough for the Bryan County Redskins who dropped a 70-56 decision Wednesday night to Heard County in the opening round of the Class A-D1 state playoffs.
In a game played an hour earlier Richmond Hill’s girls got beat 67-47 by Pebblebrook in a Class 7A game. These two losses came one day after Bryan County’s girls were defeated by Temple, 55-50, in a Class A-D1 game.
Richmond Hill’s boys failed to make the state playoffs for the second straight season after a run of five straight years of post-season play.
The fact the four teams combined to finish with an overall record of 54-54 kind of symbolized the year it was for the county teams. Bryan’s girls were 21-6, the boys were 12-17, Richmond Hill’s girls were 15-12 and the Wildcats boys finished at 6-19.
The Redskins were looking to reach the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 1998 and in taking on Heard County (8-16) Coach Brent Anderson liked his team’s chances.
Unfortunately, despite Mincey’s outstanding performance, Bryan County could not sustain early momentum which saw it leading 39-36 at the half
“They were solid,” Anderson said. “We went cold in the fourth quarter and it got away from us. I’m looking forward to next year.”
The Redskins could manage only four points in the fourth quarter, all on free throws as Mincey made three and Jordan Flannel had the other.
The Redskins lose seniors Jamal Campbell, Cam Gusman, Devontae Bowers and Flannel but return Mincey and Tanner Ennis along with key reserves Justin Beck, Javin Collins, Sean Kelly Hill and Chris Winfree.
RICHMOND HILL GIRLS
Coach Sarah Brown’s team moved up a notch to Class 7A but in many ways there was little change for the Wildcats who still saw themselves fighting for their life most nights. They were in a tough region in 3-6A and going into Region 1-7A was equally challenging.
The key to success for the Wildcats, as Brown noted before the Pebblebrook game, was controlling the tempo and playing good defense which she has always emphasized.
When Richmond Hill was able to control the defense and hold the opposition to fewer than 40 points it found itself in the thick of things. Offensively the Wildcats lacked firepower, especially when it came to have a go-to player for points. Once the game started getting away from them catching up was a problem.
The step up in classification, while challenging, did not prove to be an insurmountable hurdle for her team, said Brown whose team missed the playoffs last year.
“To me the two regions were pretty comparable,” Brown said. “Both regions have pretty good teams, good athletes and lots of depth. Everything we talked about last year about how every night was a fight it was the same thing this year. You have to be at your best every night. You can’t have all the turnovers, give up all the offensive rebounds.”
The Wildcats lose seniors Brionna Sutton, Savannah Gravitt, Sapphira Mathews Aaliyah Houston and Haley Everett but have some young but talented returnees.
May Inyang, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, showed at times she can be a player to be reckoned with. Junior Makiyah Matthews, freshman Cullen McCormick and 5-10 sophomore Jada Brown are other top returnees.
Both Richmond Hill’s boys and Bryan County’s girls are loaded with returning talent and for the Wildcats boys there’s nowhere to go but up after a second straight subpar season. Richmond Hill was 5-21 last year after going 45-9 the previous two seasons.
Coach Bill Henderson has played a boatload of underclassmen the last two seasons—this year’s team had only one senior in Julian Jackson—and he is counting on that paying dividends next year.
The Wildcats’ top three scorers, juniors Bryce Hendricks and Anthony Bynum and sophomore Anthony Bynum return as does top rebounder sophomore Andre Brown.
Coach Mario Mincey’s Redskins exceeded expectations as they finished as the region runner-up despite starting only one senior in Kenzie Stucker who finished her career with 1,003 points and over 500 rebounds.
Junior Kayley Wedlow, who averaged 22 points per game, heads a returning cast that includes fast-improving sophomore center Ashanti Brown who in only her third year of playing basketball averaged 13 points and 12 rebounds per game. Brown had a school record 23 rebounds against Metter.
Starting freshman guard Jasmine Mikell returns and competition among sophomores Katelyn King, Nevaeh Lovett, Synnovia Grant and Soniya Whitaker and freshmen Liz Harvey and Sariah Whitaker for playing time will be fierce.