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Richmond Hill basketball season preview
Bill Henderson
Bill Henderson - photo by Provided



It was 15 years ago that Bill Henderson was playing basketball for the Richmond Hill Wildcat’s varsity team.

Fast forward to the present day, Henderson is now entering his tenth year at the helm at his alma mater’s head basketball coach.

Wildcat basketball is a year removed from a 21-4 season and a region championship.

They would start the 2020 season off on a 15-game winning streak until they fell 54-49 to region opponent Statesboro.

“We had a lot of success last year,” Henderson said as he reflected on the 2020 season. “We had the benefit last year of having that played together the year before and were region champions and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. We had almost all those same guys back again. We opened the year playing really well then we had a bit of a downtime in the middle of the year. But in a way it was good for us because it gave us a chance to kind of refocus. I think a lot of times when you see all that success, it maybe gets to your head a little bit and you kind of forget about some of your weaknesses or you start doing some things that maybe you weren’t doing early on in the beginning. But I was really proud of the way our guys responded from that little bit of adversity that we faced. They bounced back and finished strong and got in the region tournament and won the championship for back-to-back years. Then we got to the playoffs and advanced to the state playoffs for the first time in a long time. It was really satisfied to see all of the work and dedication that the guys put in to go on a great run and have a great year.”

Once the streak ended, they would go 6-4 and season would come to an end to in the third round of the playoffs to the eventual GHSA Class 6A state champions Wheeler with a score of 61-47.

“I can honestly say being able to play the eventual state champions at home was a pretty big deal for us,” Henderson said about the playoff game. “They came to Richmond Hill and we knew going into that, it was going to be a tough matchup. They have pretty good size all around. They were the No. 1 team in the state for the entire season. We knew that we would need to make some shots in order to keep it really close and potentially have a chance to win. Unfortunately, we didn’t shoot it well enough to keep it super close. But if you just look at what Wheeler did throughout the playoffs, they were up in the 70’s in every single game. We held them to 61. That’s something we can kind of hang our hat on that we gave a pretty solid defensive effort against a team that’s super talented. Had some more shots fallen it may have ended up a little different but overall, I’m super proud of that group and all they were able to accomplish. Unfortunately, that’s kind of the way the state tournament goes. Sometimes it’s all about the bracket that you get. Unfortunately for us, it had us playing the eventual state champions in the third round.”

The driving force of Wildcat basketball this season will be a trio of senior guards.

Brayden Baker, who was the second leading team scorer a season ago, averaging 11.8 points per game along with 5.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 will be the undisputed leader.

His fellow backcourt players that he will look to for assistance are Kaleb Beckwith and Justus Quiller.

“We’re going to rely on three senior guards that are returning,” Henderson said regarding his team this season. “Brayden Baker is a big part of what we’ve done the past few years here. He was a starter on last year’s region championship team. He played a lot of minutes when he was a sophomore on the first region championship team. We’re really going to rely a lot on Brayden and his leadership and his experienced playing in big games to show the younger guys what it takes. Then we got two other senior guards that are returning. One is Kaleb Beckwith and the other is Justus Quiller. Those are two guys that were with us on that region championship team last year. They played in some big minutes and gave us some spark. Now it’s time for them to move from that role to a starting and leadership role. Those guys are really the three that we are going to rely a lot on and depend on them to lead. The way it’s looking, we’re fairly young right now so they’re going to need that leadership and we always say that the player-led teams are the best teams. So, we can coach them up and everything but seeing their teammates get example will go a really long way for our group.”

In his tenth season, Henderson is all about focusing on controllable situations in the season and constant improvement throughout the season.

He wants his team to also build there relationships more than they already have to guide them to going for a three-peat in a strong Region 2-6A.

“The biggest thing that we tell the guys is that we just have to control what we can control,” Henderson said. “That’s kind of been what we’ve tried to instill in our players. The winning takes care of itself if we can control what we can control. The biggest goal for us is by the time region play comes along, we’re a lot better than we are at the beginning of the year. In a tournament sport like basketball, you just want to really make sure you’re playing your best basketball when it really counts and matters. My hope is that everyday in practice these guys go out there and get after it, help make each other better, be great teammates to each other and treat each other very well. The work that they put in and the improvement that they’re going to make will go a long way towards the success that we’re going to have over the course of the first few months of the year. The region is going to be super tough with a lot of really great teams and coaches. So, we know that every night when that region play starts up, we’re going to have to be able to give our best effort if we want to be able to compete for another region championship.”

The Wildcats first game will come when they head to Windsor Forest for their season opener on Tuesday, Nov. 16.



The Richmond Hill Lady Wildcats basketball team are back this season after a 17-7, playoff season.

As Head Coach Sarah Jones enters her ninth season with the Wildcats, she is looking to pick up where the team left off after falling in the first round of the state playoffs.

“This is my ninth year at the high school, and I actually was at the middle school for four years and coached boys’ basketball and then I came here so it’s my ninth year here,” Jones said. “Being able to continue to develop the kids in the program and see the strides from year to year is a really good thing.”

They began the 2020 season winning their first nine games before falling to Hilton Head Christian Academy.

The Lady Wildcats would go 8-7 for the remainder of the season that COVID-19 would play a major role in for scheduling.

But all-in-all, Jones considered the season a success and gave her team props for competing in a competitive Region 2-6A and securing a playoff berth.

“That was really nice,” Jones said to reflect on last season. “We lost a few games scheduling wise due to COVID. I think everybody was in the same boat. That was a weird year because you didn’t know who you were going to have day-to-day at practice or games due to quarantine. You’re prepping for one team and get a call about cancelling tomorrow’s game then you flip right to the next team mid-practice. The things that the girls had to overcome and still have a successful season in our region that’s so tough. You’re never going to get a night off and got to go out and play your best night in and night out because you know you’re always going to get the other team’s best. It was a tough year, but I thought not knowing who you’d have and anything popping up that the girls had a really successful season with everything going on around not just the school but outside as well.”

They went to Grovetown in the first round of the GHSA 6A state basketball playoffs but faltered to Grovetown 54-36.

“Our goal is to continue to get better every day,” Jones said. “You should always be playing your best ball at the end. The girls prepped really hard. They were just a good team to face in the first round. But our girls went out and fought hard and were ready to go. They were pretty athletic. They full court pressed the whole time and we got ourselves in a little bit of a whole. It’s tough at that point against to be able to overcome getting yourself behind early in the game.”

The Lady Wildcats are young.

A season ago, they had two seniors on the team that were the leading scorers and rebounders in Kyra Finely and Azaria Johnson, who would go on to sign to play basketball at Penn State Hazleton.

It’s the same song this year; only two seniors on the team as Zoraya Thornton and Jessica Meyer are the leaders fellow Lady Wildcats will look to.

“Our two seniors were big leaders for us and helped set the tone for the younger kids,” sad about the Leadership of the Lady Wildcats. “We only have two seniors again this year. Somebody’s got to step up – We have Brionna Sutton who’s a junior, Zoraya Thornton is a senior, MaKiyah Matthews who is a sophomore, Jessica Meyer who is a senior as well. We didn’t have a ton of depth last year and that could be a struggle for us but we also have four other players that had some varsity time last year. It’s not like they’re coming up and don’t know what to expect. That’s eight right there that saw some time at varsity.”

The biggest goal Jones want her Lady Wildcat to achieve is to be get in routine of being better everyday so they can once again compete in the tough region and take the crown this time around to ride the high horse into the state playoffs.

“One thing that we talk about is being disciplined,” Jones said. “Defense is a big thing for us. And we talk about doing whatever your job is at the time. We feel like if everyone is disciplined to do their job, the whole team is successful at that point. Same thing on the offensive end. And not just on the court but in the classroom and the weight room. To me we’re in one of the toughest regions in the state. Nobody cares that you lost your leading scorer. They just want to come out and beat you. You’ve got to discipline all the time. There’s no bad team so you have to go in and be well-prepared and practice hard because it’s going to be a dog fight every night no matter who you square off with throughout the season. Hopefully in the end, our ultimate goal is to be playing our best ball by the end of the season and hopefully win a region championship and from there continue on to the state playoffs.”

The first game the Lady Wildcats basketball will play will be in Savannah as they go to Windsor on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

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