ROCKINGHAM – Fresh off of Thanksgiving break, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders basketball team was back in the gym Monday practicing and getting ready for the season opener on Wednesday.
Entering the 2017-18 campaign, Richmond will have to use its most explosive weapon – speed – to be successful and make a deep conference championship and playoff run.
According to head coach Rosalind McDonald, now in her third season at the helm of the Lady Raiders’ program, the team is not only lacking height, but is also short on upperclassmen. But McDonald explained how that’s not going to be a deterrent for Richmond.
“We don’t have a lot of height on our team, but fortunately we have a lot of fast players,” said McDonald. “We’re trying to balance it out in that way.”
With three weeks of practice already under their belts, including the short week due to the holiday, the girls scrimmaged for roughly half an hour and it was apparent that they will try to space defenses out to create outside shots. McDonald said they’re also planning on getting the ball in the post.
“We do try to balance our inside and outside (game),” explained the coach. “We do have a lot of great shooters this year, so we definitely want to capitalize on that. If I had to call it a system, I would say we’re trying to play to our strong skill sets: speed, our outside shooters and our aggressiveness on the inside.”
The Lady Raiders will be without their two leading scorers in the post from last season, as former all-conference player Zelda McLaughlin has since graduated, and Kennedy Alexander, now a senior, transferred to Mallard Creek High School.
McDonald talked specifically about the team’s only returning senior starter, forward Saleemah Brown, and the Lady Raiders returning starting point guard, sophomore Allexis Swiney and how their leadership would be needed this year.
“They’re very athletic. They’re young but very athletic, and they’re smart players,” McDonald said of the team, “but we are looking to Brown, who is a returning starter, and Swiney, our starting point guard, for leadership.”
Also hoping to add to the mix this season will be sophomores Layne Maultsby and Hailey Miller, and junior Jayana Nicholson.
Richmond will look to build on last year’s season that saw the Lady Raiders finish 11-12 overall and 5-5 in the then Southeastern Conference and earn a berth in the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs. They fell in the first round to the Ardrey Kell High School Lady Knights 63-33 in the opening round.
This year will see Jack Britt and Seventy-First high schools join the newly established Sandhills Athletic Conference in winter sports.
Inexperience aside, at the end of practice, McDonald pulled her team into the huddle and told them that the keys to winning this year will be to execute, learn how important it is to be interchangeable at different positions and to communicate more.
The Lady Raiders basketball team will open their regular season with a non-conference away game at Fairmont High School in Robeson County on Wednesday before beginning SAC play at home against Purnell Swett High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The RO will have continuing coverage of the Lady Raiders all winter.