Richmond Hill traveled to South Effingham this past Friday - fresh from a week’s rest since their last game. The extra practice must have done them some good. After scratching all game to stay in contention with the Lady Mustangs, they briefly took a lead late in the game but were unable to hold on and dropped their opening sub-region game in a frustratingly close 36-35 contest.
In the end, the difference for the Cats was in their free throw shooting.
Richmond Hill made only one of five free throw attempts in the fourth period while the Lady Mustangs sank five of six shots from the charity stripe. A missed lay up in those final seconds might have seemed more to blame for the loss - head coach Elizabeth Bennett was having none of that argument.
"Free throws, that was the difference. Youthful mistakes... we fouled them and they made their shots - we didn’t." Bennett said afterward. She also had a lot to say about the stellar performance of her sophomore shooting guard, Tyler Carlson.
Carlson started the game quickly for the Lady Cats and made ten of her game high 18 points in the period. While her team mates struggled to find open shots, Carlson was seemingly all over the court - making shots, playing tough defense, and forcing turnovers.
South Effingham wasn’t so one dimensional. Candice Kennedy and Whitney Jones led the Lady Mustangs with 12 and 11 points respectively, but they were also joined by three other starters that managed points in the first quarter to maintain a slim 13-10 lead.
The second was all about the defense.
Playing their usual full court pressure, but working out of a zone defense when the taller Lady Mustangs were in their half court, Richmond Hill managed to clamp down in the second period. South Effingham committed seven turnovers in the period and managed just four points. Unfortunately for Richmond Hill, Carlson cooled off a bit and no one else could hit their shots either. They went to the locker room still down by only three points.
As much as Coach Bennett had to like what she saw in Carlson’s play, she also has to be concerned that her other starters are not hitting their shots of late. Daisha Davis came off the bench in the third period and ended up as the second leading scorer for the Lady Cats with just 6 points. But none was bigger than a shot late in the game.
After Colleen Keller put the Lady Cats ahead 33-32 with just over one minute to go, a traveling call gave the ball back to Richmond Hill. The Lady Cats had been limited to just outside shooting all game by the taller Lady Mustangs, but Davis managed to get the ball in to the low post and muscle a shot past her defenders for what seemed a commanding three-point lead with just forty seconds to play.
A Richmond Hill turnover and two subsequent fouls sent Kennedy to the line where she tied and re-gained the lead. A final inbound play with just seven seconds left saw Carlson nearly miss a go ahead layup and then Keller’s last shot rung off the rim.
The valiant effort left Richmond Hill with a 1-3 record.
The end result was the same for the following day at Windsor Forest, although the margin was much wider, with a 43-22 non-region loss. At that game, Carlson led with 7 points while Gina Anderson and Colleen Keller scored 4 points each. Windsor Forest offensive powerhouse Bianica Washington led the opposition with 15 points.
Richmond Hill will face Claxton at home Friday, 7 p.m. before preparing for a Savannah Christmas tournament over the holiday break.