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No. 5 Wildcats get past Rebels
Keion Wallace
Effingham County's Miquel Allen (10) and Keion Wallace (0) trap Richmond Hill's Leighton Finley (23) in a corner Friday night. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

RICHMOND HILL -- Unfortunately, the Effingham County basketball scorebook was a short and easy read.

Four players produced points. No one with more than 13.

And that just couldn’t match the firepower of Richmond Hill.

The Rebels’ hustling defense didn’t make it an easy Friday night for the Wildcats, but with an offense missing double-digit scorer Khiry Wallace, ECHS fell 53-36 to the No. 5 team in Class AAAAAA..

“Size and experience were the difference,” Rebels coach Jake Darling said. “Richmond Hill’s guys have been playing varsity for two to three years now and they’re pretty solid. They have a core group. We’re still trying to speed up the process of guys playing at the varsity level.”

ECHS (11-4, 3-3 Region 2-AAAAAA) started four sophomores and a junior against the undefeated Wildcats. Wallace, a three-year starting junior, would have added some experience, but he suffered an elbow injury against Benedictine on Jan. 7.

“(Khiry) goes back to the doctor in a week and if he has full range of motion, he’ll be back,” Darling said. “Hopefully, we’ll have him back as soon as possible.”

The Rebels sorely missed Wallace’s scoring Friday. They made only five field goals in the second half, didn’t hit a 3-pointer in the game and made only eight of 18 shots from the free-throw line.

Eventually, a 26-21 game at halftime got away.

Caleb Williams led ECHS with 13 points. Keion Wallace had 11, Rashad Scott added eight and Ashley Thompson had two.

ECHS’ 36 points tied a season-low set Dec. 12 in a 36-32 win over May River.

Richmond Hill (14-0, 6-0) had its season-low offensive output -- about 17 points under its scoring average.

“(Playing hard-nosed defense) was something we talked about and we did a good job holding them under their average,” Darling said. “We threw some different stuff at them offensively, we just couldn’t get it in the hoop.”

The Rebels jumped out to a 4-0 advantage, but the Wildcats, who started four players 6-foot-3 or taller, responded with a 15-4 run and led 15-8 after the first quarter.

Williams scored seven points in the second quarter and sparked mini runs of 6-0 and 5-0 to cut the hosts’ lead to 26-21.

Keion Wallace made a free throw in the opening seconds of the third quarter to make it 26-22, but Richmond Hill reeled off six straight points and ECHS never got closer than eight the rest of the way.

“It was a reality check, a chance to compare our team with theirs and where we want to be, not just this year, but in the following years,” Darling said.

The loss put the Rebels in a three-way tie with Brunswick and Glynn Academy for third place in the region. All three have 1-1 records against the other two teams.

ECHS will be back in action on Tuesday (Jan. 19) to begin a four-game homestand with Statesboro. The Rebels will meet county rival South Effingham on Friday (Jan. 22).

In the girls game, Richmond Hill rolled to a 59-17 win over Effingham County. Roneisha Goss led the Rebels (2-12, 0-6) with six points.