The RHMS girls’ basketball team wrapped up an undefeated season with an 11-0 mark and a region championship this past weekend.
It was the third region title for the Lady Cats, the previous two in 1997 and 2000.
However, this was the first team to accomplish the feat without taking even a single loss along the way.
The road to the title was not an easy one. The Cats had to face tough region foes Screven County in the semi-finals and William James in the final round. Screven Co. was up first on Friday night. The Gamecocks came ready to play after experiencing a crushing defeat earlier in the season. RHMS would not back down and met the intensity of Screven with an intensity of their own. Led by Lady Cat Aliyah Johnson’s season-high 17 points, the Lady Cats cruised to a 34-22 victory.
Meanwhile, in another semi-final competition, William James beat Langston Chapel to set the stage for up a showdown with the one loss William James team - the one loss coming to Richmond Hill 23-19 very early in the season.
This was by far the toughest game the team had played all year. The Wildcats’ defense dominated early - holding their opponent to only 2 points in the first quarter while Johnson and Sydney Millek put 7 on the board for the early lead. William James would take advantage of some defensive breakdowns in the second however putting up 11 points. Richmond Hill would answer with 6 of their own sending the game into halftime tied 13-13.
Coming out of halftime, the Wildcat shooters found their stroke. Keisha Durham nailed 6 of her team high 10 points in the third quarter. The defense was again stingy only allowing William James 2 points in the quarter. The third quarter ended with Aliyah Johnson finishing a baseline-to-baseline layup as time expired. Going into the fourth and final quarter, the Cats were ahead 23-15.
The fourth quarter found the girls battling an all-of-a-sudden hot William James. The physical nature under the basket led to some quick foul trouble, 11 of which came from the same positon on the floor. WJMS was able to capitalize on the change in momentum and tied the game at 24-24 with 5 seconds left. The wildcats in-bounded the ball to Johnson who was fouled with 3.8 seconds left, sending her to the free throw line with a chance to put her team ahead. She would make the first for the lead and her second missed. William James could not make the desperation heave thus giving RHMS the championship 25-24.
Head coach Sean Strickland was beaming with pride from his team’s effort.
"This game was a testament to how hard these girls truly wanted to win," Strickland said. "I cannot say enough about how amazing it is to have had the privilege of being a part of this. This is a special group. The character that it takes to withstand a resurging opponent is tremendous, and these players showed they had plenty to go around. I again have to say what a joy and privilege it has been to be around this amazing team, and they finished the way few can - with a perfect record. They are a remarkable group of young ladies that I believe are only going to get better with time."
The team consists of 8th graders Sarah Goolsby, Lakeisha Durham, Keri Edwards, Aliyah Johnson, Breanna Cota, Kendra Ford, Sydney Millek, Olivia Bascombe, Jenai’ Polite, Trisha Jennings, 7th grader Bailey Crawford, and 6th grader Brandy Franklin.