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Head Coach William Altman has been used to seeing his team play and get out muscled by physically taller and larger teams lately. The new year has brought a new strategy against such teams and garnered the first year coach and his team a weekend split.
An unfamiliar and unexpected zone defense greeted the Liberty County Panthers on Friday in Hinesville and had the heavily favored Panthers confounded for two periods before the Wildcats finally succumbed in the second half, to the much taller Panthers, and a 64-45 loss.
The next night at home, Richmond Hill avenged an earlier loss to Jenkins by employing the same strategy - this time it worked for four periods and gained the Wildcats a 38-33 non-region win.
On Friday, the Wildcats used that swinging zone defense to force Liberty County to their outside game early. The Panthers were not hitting their shots, and it allowed the Wildcats to stay with the Panthers through the first period as they trailed by only two going to the third.
While one of the Panthers trio of big men, Emmanuel Fuller, scored seven of his nine points in this period to counter his team’s cold shooting, Richmond Hill was heating up from outside.
Chakiris Moss had two three-pointers in the period and 10 of his game-high 19 points in the stanza to help lead the Wildcats to the locker room with an improbable 34-30 lead. The only thing that could have worked any better for the Wildcats at that unlikely juncture was a building-clearing bomb scare.
After the break, the Wildcats tried to control the ball a bit to slow the tempo, but it was the Panther man defense that held down Richmond Hill’s scoring to just two points in the period, and they started using their height advantage to score from in close - taking control of the game.
The Panthers other two big men, Jordan McRae and Michael Manning had 14 and 13 points respectively. CJ Bynum finished with nine for Richmond Hill.
The Wildcats made the strategy hold up for four periods on Saturday.
Against a team that dominated the Wildcats physically at their recent Holiday tournament, the Wildcats were determined to avenge that loss on their home court. Moss picked up where he left off in the second quarter against Liberty with three first period three-pointers against the Warriors.
More importantly, the tight zone defense the Wildcats were running had the Warriors shooting everything from outside, and they were not going in. Another result was that Richmond Hill was getting most of the defensive rebounds and not allowing the bigger Warriors close enough to the basket to get any put backs.
Richmond Hill, which was out rebounded by the Warriors 40-19 in their first meeting, managed to hold their own under the boards with the taller Jenkins team. The Wildcats took a one point lead to the locker room and, for the second time in as many nights, the opposing team emerged just in time to take the court to start the third. Presumably, both coaching staffs had a lot to say about the up start Wildcats.
This time, Richmond Hill continued to battle even though they managed just six points in the third period that tenacious zone defense was keeping them close. The Fourth would be about free throws.
Moss went to the line eight times in the period and made five of them. Twice he went to the line with less than a minute to play and he made all four of those free throws, putting the game on ice. Moss led all scorers with 20 points. Richmond Hill improved to 5-7, 1-2 region 3-AAA and will travel to Burke County on Friday for 7 p.m. start. On Saturday, they will come home for a rematch against Windsor Forest 7 p.m.
See video at www.bryancountynews.net.