Coach Sarah Jones is optimistic that her Richmond Hill basketball program is moving in the right direction.
Jones – the former Sarah Brown before she got married last summer – has only one starter back from last year’s 12-16 team which lost in the first round of the state playoffs, but she likes what she has seen in eight practices and a scrimmage game with Statesboro.
“We have a lot of kids back who have been in the program for a while,” Jones said. “That’s a positive because that gives us a good foundation, and you can build on that.
“It’s not a brand new learning process for them,” Jones said. “They know what we want to do, and they know the expectations.”
Jones is in her fifth year as head coach of the Wildcats after coaching the middle school boys team for four years.
Richmond Hill opened the season this past Tuesday by hosting New Hampstead, and will be playing in a tournament at Windsor Forest High School on Friday and Saturday against opponents yet to be determined.
The Wildcats’ lone returning starter is senior point guard Hannah Yontz and she will be joined in the starting lineup by sophomore Sky Lett, junior Jaxson Douglas, junior Danika Boyd and senior Javionna McDonald.
McDonald was the first player off the bench last year, while Douglas and Boyd contributed important minutes down the stretch when Richmond Hill won four of its last six games—both losses were to Brunswick—to gain a No. 3 seed and a state playoff berth.
“That’s who we started in a scrimmage against Statesboro,” Jones said. “But, it could change early in the season as we rotate people through.”
Richmond Hill lost to Statesboro, 52-44, in the scrimmage game with Douglas scoring 17 points, hitting 10-of-12 free throws, an area which has been a thorn in the side for the Wildcats the past two seasons.
“That’s been our Achilles heel,” Jones said. “We had a lot of close games last year and if we had shot better at the line the record could have been better.
“We only scored 44 points or better a handful of times last year (five times, all wins),” Jones said. “When we score 44 points I expect us to win. We’ve got to step up our intensity on defense.”
The Wildcats were involved in nine games last year that were decided by six or few points. They lost four games by four, two, one and two points.
Junior guard Jasmine Anderson will, Jones said, be the first player in off the bench if she’s not starting while juniors Ashley Villalobos and Tylandra Rhodes will push for playing time as will junior Nalexia Vann and senior Shanissa Rason.
Rason and sophomore Alex DeCosta are newcomers to the program, and neither participated in the summer program.
There is also a new coach on staff as veteran middle school coach Frieda Clark joins the varsity replacing Angie Hummeldorf who elected not to coach basketball this season.
“Coach Clark will be our head junior varsity coach in addition assisting with the varsity,” Jones said. “She helped us over the summer. All the girls know her, and she knows them.”
The Lady Wildcats schedule:
Nov. 14: New Hampstead; 17-18: South Side Classic at Windsor Forest; 21: at Tattnall County.
Dec. 1: at South Effingham; 5: at Liberty County; 9: Windsor Forest; 12: Tattnall County; 15-16-18: at Savannah Holiday Classic; 28-29: Richmond Hill Holiday Classic.
Jan. 2: at Glynn Academy*; 5: at Effingham County*; 6: Islands; 9: Brunswick*; 12: Bradwell Institute*; 16: South Effingham; 20: Liberty County; 23: Glynn Academy*; 26: Effingham County*; 27: at Islands; 30: at Brunswick*
Feb. 2: at Bradwell Institute. *—Region games.