SAVANNAH -- Thanks to a herculean effort by Brayden Baker the Richmond Hill Wildcats snapped a nine-game losing streak last Tuesday night with a 73-65 win over South Effingham.
Baker scored a career high 39 points including 17 in the fourth quarter to lead the Wildcats (5-15, 3-4) to the much-needed Region 2-6A win. He also got strong support from fellow senior Kaleb Beckwith who also had a career high with 21.
Richmond Hill, however, couldn’t follow up last Saturday when it was plagued by a plethora of turnovers against a Johnson press leading to easy baskets and a 72-44 Atomsmashers win. Baker scored 20 as Johnson (10-6) won its fourth straight.
The two-game outburst left Baker needing 28 points to crack the 1,000-point mark for his career based on statistics posted on the MaxPreps website. MaxPreps credits Baker with 46 points as a freshman, 187 as a sophomore and 295 as a junior.
The 6-foot-6 Baker, who is committed to play at Young Harris College which is a member of the DII Peach Belt Conference, has 444 points, an average of 22.2 points per game, going into a Tuesday night game at region rival Glynn Academy.
In the event he doesn’t hit the magic mark at Glynn he will get a chance to do it on his home floor when Richmond Hill hosts Statesboro. It will be the Wildcats’ first home game since Dec. 14, a stretch of 12 games.
The game with the Blue Devils will be the first of four straight home games to end the regular season.
While it has been a disappointing season record-wise Coach Bill Henderson’s team still has a chance to make some noise in the region race which Statesboro and Effingham County lead with 6-2 records.
With the exception of South Effingham everyone else has either three or four losses as unlike most years the region is unusually bunched in the middle.
Against Johnson the Wildcats came out looking crisp and sharp as they scored on their first two possessions with Beckwith, who had 11 points, and Baker making three-pointers for a quick 6-0 lead.
Then the Wildcats, who were expected to take a step backwards this season after losing four starters off last year’s Elite Eight team, went cold as they followed a pattern which has plagued them all season in that they went into a prolonged scoring lapse.
After Baker scored with just under seven minutes left in the opening quarter Richmond Hill did not get another basket until Bryce Hendricks hit a three-pointer with 52 seconds on the clock.
By that time Johnson had raced out to a 17-10 lead and led 17-12 at the close of the quarter after Baker scored. Richmond Hill trailed 21-17 with 3:21 left in the half when Skyler Riley put back Baker’s miss.
Then the dam burst.
Johnson closed on an 11-2 run and the momentum carried over into the third quarter as it opened on a 13-3 outburst to put it out of reach. Having been outscored 24-5 in a six-minute span the offensively challenged Wildcats had no answer.
Against the Mustangs the Wildcats carried a 52-46 lead into the fourth quarter and then won it at the foul line as Baker made eight of nine free throws and Beckwith three of four. For the game Richmond Hill made 20 of 24 foul shots and that was the difference.