William Altman was still having a hard time sleeping nights after witnessing his team squander a 15 point lead to Claxton on Tuesday. When his Wildcats went up by over fifteen points in the second half of their game against South Effingham the coach called time out just to be sure his team understood they were not to let up. They didn’t.
The best home crowd of the season and a boisterous student section witnessed their team increase their lead in each period - and in each period the gymnasium got a little louder - as the Wildcats cruised to a 52-27 region 3-AAA win. With the win Richmond Hill broke a four game skid and picked up their second region win (6-11, 2-4). It was the tight man defense throughout that kept the Mustangs scoring in check but in the fourth period Richmond Hill tightened down the screws.
The Mustangs didn’t pick up their first field goal until 1:24 in the period by way of a meaningless three-pointer by Mustang Alex Reid. Mustang Zach Anderson finished with a team high ten points. It was also a strong beginning for the Cats, and it was jump started by their senior center.
Playing like the energizer bunny around the basket, Sean Szad had his best game of the season. His nine first period points helped Richmond Hill build a 16-9 lead. Unofficially, Szad pulled down eleven rebounds for the Wildcats but he seemingly had his hands on every thing off the rim and was responsible for several jump balls and turnovers. He led all scoring with 16 points. While Szad was taking care of the inside, a teammate was mixing in points from outside.
Chakiris Moss followed Szad close behind with 15 points and provided a scoring balance that the Mustang defense could not slow down. Moss’ three-pointer at the third period buzzer ignited the crowd and was a precursor to the fourth period domination that followed.
Earlier in the evening, Richmond Hill’s Ladies seemed to be headed for a similar fate, but a fourth period comeback by the Lady Mustangs spoiled the effort and Richmond Hill fell 39-36. In the end, it was South Effingham’s advantage at the free throw line that made the difference.
After being held to 7-7-8 points respectively in the first three periods by a stingy Richmond Hill zone defense, South Effingham broke through for seventeen in the fourth period.
Lady Mustang Clara Knowles' two three-pointers early in the period helped close the gap then her two free throws late gave her team the lead. Iesha Reese added two key field goals in the period and led the Lady Mustangs with 13 points.
Richmond Hill was out shot at the charity stripe on the night; South Effingham went 12 for 21 while the Lady Wildcats were only 7 of 15 from the line. Most of those free throws South Effingham picked up came in the second half as they gradually closed the gap. Richmond Hill also went cold in that second half of the fourth period and couldn’t buy a bucket.
The late frenzied pace of both teams going from their zone defense to full court mayhem led to five critical turnovers for Richmond Hill and kept them from getting many scoring chances late. To add insult to injury,
Tyler Carlson led all scorers with 14 points but fouled out with just thirty seconds remaining and her team only down by three.
The resulting free throws were missed, but a late shot from underneath by Richmond Hill’s Dajah Davis wouldn’t fall and then a three point attempt by Colleen Keller rang in and out of the basket with just seconds remaining.
The Lady Wildcats will travel to St. Vincent’s, and the boys to Benedictine on Friday Jan. 25. The girls game starts at 6 p.m. and the boys at 7:30 p.m. Burke County will come to town on the following night for a 7 p.m. ladies start.