ROCKINGHAM — What it lacks in size, it’ll have to make up for with speed.
The Richmond girls basketball team will have to rely on its ability to get up and down the floor this season more than it has had to in recent years. And with the season opener less than a week away, head coach Rosalind McDonald is doing her best to make sure her team is ready to make that adjustment.
“We’re very young, athletic and we’re small,” McDonald said. “We’re going to really have to have a group effort this year. As long as we play together as a team, and each person uses their skill set to help the team, we’ll be OK.”
The Lady Raiders lost their two leading post scorers from last season in former all-conference player Zelda McLaughlin and Kennedy Alexander. They were prepared to lose McLaughlin, who was a senior, but were blindsided by the latter having to move and transfer to Mallard Creek prior to her junior year.
Alexander’s energetic play towards the end of the 2016-17 season, and her development as an athlete with the track and field team this past spring, seemed to be a precursor for a promising year on the court alongside senior forward Saleemah Brown and sophomore guard Allexis Swiney — the team’s two returning starters.
Brown and Swiney, now, will have to use their experience in the starting lineup to provide some much-needed leadership to a team that’s still trying to settle into its new identity. While Brown is holding down the paint, Swiney and other guards like junior Taliah Wall and sophomores Keionna Love and Layne Maultsby will be called on to push the tempo.
“We really make up for our lack of size with our speed. So, that’s a great thing,” McDonald added.
Things didn’t go too well in the team’s lone scrmimage of the preseason, at Mooresville last Saturday, but McDonald believes her young squad learned a few things about itself that will help in the long run.
“The scrimmage did show us the areas that we need to work on and some others where we were strong,” she said. “We’re learning how to balance our outside and inside games and getting our post players to play more aggressive — to kind of make up for their lack of size.”
McDonald is entering her third year as head coach of the program and expects her team to continue building on the foundation that has been laid. Last season, they finished with an 11-12 overall record, a 5-5 record in the conference, and earned a berth in the NCHSAA State Playoffs.
Although the conference has expanded and added both Jack Britt and Seventy-First, the third-year coach still expects to be among the top four teams in the Sandhills Athletic Conference by the season’s end.
“I expect us to continue to grow in the conference,” she said. “I want us to finish stronger than we did last year in the conference and go deeper in the playoffs last year.”
Richmond opens up the season with a non-conference away game at Fairmont next Wednesday, Nov. 29.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.