ROCKINGHAM — The pounding of balls on the hardwood and the squeak from shoes will echo in Raider Gymnasium as the Richmond Senior basketball teams open practice Wednesday afternoon.
The boys squad, led by David Laton, posted a 19-9 mark last season and finished second in the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament. The Raiders advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoffs, falling to SEC rival Hoke County for the fourth time.
The girls team, coached by Victoria DeFrate, went 7-18 last year and was fourth in the SEC regular season. The squad grabbed the final automatic bid from the conference into the state 4A playoffs and lost in the opening round at Southern Durham.
Richmond’s girls squad will take to the court first during the preseason, playing in the E.E. Smith Jamboree on Nov. 16. The second-year coach added she is hopeful of finding another jamboree for her team to participate in before the season opener.
The Richmond boys team has just one scrimmage scheduled at Forest Hills on Nov. 30.
The teams will tip off the season at home against Cheraw (S.C.) in a doubleheader on Dec. 3. The girls will hit the court at 6 p.m., with the boys set to follow at approximately 7:30 p.m.
In addition to taking on regional rival Cheraw, both teams will face Anson, Marlboro County (S.C.) and Union Pines. Also, Richmond will return to play in the annual Robeson County Shootout for the first time in several years. SEC members Lumberton and Purnell Swett will also be a part of the Shootout.
“Anson is always a very athletic team and Marlboro County is an athletic team too,” Laton said. “The nonconference games will get us prepared for the conference.”
There are just a handful of differences in the schedules. The boys will welcome Camden Military to Raider Gymnasium on Dec. 5 and will once again take part in Pinecrest’s annual Holiday in the Pines tournament. The girls will participate in the Athens Drive tournament Dec. 26 to 28 and battle Union Pines in Cameron on Feb. 12.
“I’m excited about playing in the Robeson County Shootout because it will give us a good early look at what our conference will be like” DeFrate said. “The Athens Drive tournament will give us an idea of what else is out there in the state.”
Richmond will begin SEC play in Raeford against Hoke on Jan. 10. The regular season is slated to conclude on Valentine’s Day at home against Scotland.
Laton believes there is no clear cut favorite to pull away with the league crown this season.
“I think the conference is going to be wide open,” Laton said. “Every team lost their best player from last year. It should be wide open.”
DeFrate thought the handful of coaching changes will make things interesting in the race for the girls title. Scotland, last season’s champion, will have a new face leading the charge as will Hoke and Pinecrest.
Ellerbe wraps up volleyball season
ELLERBE — The Ellerbe Middle School volleyball team dropped both matches with Anson Orange to close out its season with a 2-8 record.
The Wildcat golf team was fifth in a make-up contest at Twin Valley County Club in Wadesboro Monday afternoon. Bryson McKenzie fired a 62 and Jackson Grooms carded a 63.
The Ellerbe football team fell to 1-3 on the season with a 6-0 loss to Hamlet Tuesday afternoon. The Wildcats were plagued by turnovers, committing five in the loss. Ellerbe will return to action 4 p.m. Wednesday when it plays host to Rohanen.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.