ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior has been down this path before, it just hopes to avoid last season’s pitfalls.
The Raiders raced out to a 10-0 record last year, including capturing the Holiday in the Pines tournament championship before entering Southeastern Conference play.
Then the team hit the wall, losing five of their first seven SEC games. The skid pushed Richmond on the brink of being eliminated from the state 4A playoffs before rebounding to win its final three league contests to finish fourth and secure a postseason berth.
Richmond coach David Laton believes that stretch — when his team had to play every game like it was a playoff contest — should pay off dividends this season.
“I’m sure that will help us,” Laton said following Wednesday’s practice. “We have guys that have been there, even the ones we pulled up for the conference tournament and playoffs.”
This season the Raiders are off to a 3-0 start heading into Saturday’s showdown at Marlboro County (S.C.) without starters Josh Calhoun and Jordan Richardson. Calhoun is expected to be out until at least January after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason, while Richardson is sidelined with a knee injury.
“We should know in a week or so when we will get Jordan back,” Laton said. “Getting Josh back could hopefully be a shot in the arm for us in conference play.”
Even with two of his starters on the bench in street clothes, Laton is pleased with the way his team is performing to begin the new season.
In the win over South Robeson, Raheem Bowden scored a career-high 21 points off the bench to lead three Raiders in double figures. Five players were in double figures led by reserve Greg Patterson’s 16 points in the home victory against Douglas Byrd. In Tuesday’s win at Cheraw, Shydamion Ellerbe netted a team-high 24 points to pace three with at least 10.
“We are sharing the ball and have great scoring balance,” Laton said. “We are only playing nine people right now. Hopefully when Josh and Jordan get back, we can continue to play a lot of people. And hopefully our chemistry will stay very good.
“I think this year’s team has much better chemistry, much better balance and better depth. I don’t know what it will mean until we start playing people in the conference. Every team is different and the conference is going to be different as well.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.