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Panthers drop district -opener

December 22, 2021 - 15:00
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The Richards High School girls basketball team is doing a lot with less.

Despite just eight players, half of them freshmen, the Lady Panthers had a 3-6 record heading into the last week of play before the holiday break.

The Richards girls did not play last year because the team did not have enough players, so the squad’s progress thus far is promising.

“We’re doing pretty well for a young team,” Richards head coach Will Autery said, noting that he starts two to three freshmen every game. “The team as a whole is coming along very well.”

One of the highlights was the team’s runner-up finish in the Apple Springs tournament, when the team played with just six players in the championship game. One player was unavailable because of a soccer game, another because of a family commitment made well in advance of the scheduling.

“It’s kind of the challenge of coaching at a smaller school,” Autery said.

The squad came from behind to beat Chester 25-24 in the tournament’s first round. “We outscored our opponent in the fourth quarter 10-1,” he said.

Freshman shooting guard Alayna Francis was the catalyst, finishing with eight points, 11 rebounds and five steals. Freshman post Cadence Nance had seven rebounds, five blocks, four points and four steals.

Autery said the addition of Francis “was a really big boost for our program. It’s not her primary sport.”

Francis excelled for the volleyball team, and the coach didn’t know she would play basketball too. She had nine points in the Apple Springs tournament championship loss. “Her perimeter shooting is really helping,” he said.

But the scoring is balanced. Junior shooting guard Kylie Bates led the squad with 13 points in the tournament championship defeat, and the returnee had 12 points the game before.

Guard April Bowen, the lone senior, had seven points and four rebounds in the each of the tournament’s last two games and also had nine steals in one of those.

Freshman Kira Coleman is in her first year playing basketball, yet she has shined on defense. “Her rebounds are phenomenal,” the coach said, adding that they translate into extra possessions. “She’s scrappy. She kind of finds the ball. She gets some blocked shots.”

The girls lost their district opener to Dime Box yet trailed by just four at halftime. “We can play with anybody,” Autery said.