ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior girls basketball coach Victoria DeFrate believes her team can make a statement in the Southeastern Conference this season.
The Raiders return leading scorer Shaquail Wall as well as a handful of other key contributors from last year’s 7-18 squad, which lost in the opening round of the state 4A playoffs.
“It was smoother this year because they already know our system,” DeFrate said about the beginning of practice. “They know our offense and defense and what to expect. We got to work with them all summer. We went to two all-day jamborees during the summer.”
DeFrate added the long bus rides and playing all day allowed the players to begin to gel as a team.
Richmond will see how well it stacks up against outside competition this weekend when it participates in the annual E.E. Smith Jamboree Saturday in Fayetteville. DeFrate said her team will play three games in a four-hour span beginning with the host school at 9 a.m. The Raiders will then face Gray’s Creek at 11 a.m. before closing out against Overhills at noon.
After releasing its schedule last month, DeFrate made a change which she hopes will benefit the team later in the season. Richmond was slated to participate in the Athens Drive tournament over the Christmas break, but DeFrate elected to pull out of the event last week. The Raiders, however, will still compete in the Robeson County Shootout on Dec. 18 to 21.
“It was a long way to go after playing in another tournament. It was going to be four hours of driving three days in a row,” DeFrate said. “And I wanted to give the girls a break.”
Boys team gets ready despite missing players
While DeFrate has been able to work with all 12 of her players since the opening of practice, Richmond boys coach David Laton hasn’t had that luxury yet. Laton has been short-handed with members of his team still playing on the Raider football squad.
“That’s part of being at Richmond and having a strong football program,” Laton said. “We will get them when we get them…I hope it’s after winning a state championship.”
Right now Laton has eight varsity players at his disposal, but one of his key returners, Trey Pettigrew, has been slowed by a knee injury.
“We are working hard on our fundamentals and conditioning,” Laton said. “The guys ran with the cross country team this fall which gave us a nice base on conditioning. This time of year is very enjoyable, we get to work on fundamentals and conditioning.”
Richmond will not take the court against an outside opponent until Nov. 30, when its takes on Forest Hills in a scrimmage.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.