By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
RICHMOND HILL — With a couple of starters out on personal trips, Effingham County’s boys needed to have a “next man up” mentality for their Friday night basketball game at Richmond Hill.
Turns out, the next men played pretty well and the Rebels had little trouble rolling to a 57-31 victory.
“Our culture should be “next man up,” ECHS coach Travis Priddy said. “It doesn’t matter if someone isn’t here, if someone’s hurt, someone’s in foul trouble. It’s next man up. Nothing changes. It’s just that mentality you have to have if you’re going to be a championship team.”
Priddy had a chance to put the theory in action when Keion Wallace, the region’s 2020-21 player of the year, and Timmy Brown, a top defensive player, weren’t available Friday.
Two minutes into the game, Rebels starting post player Jordan Goldwire picked up his second foul and took a seat on the bench.
But ECHS (3-1) had little trouble finding suitable replacements. Players often coming off the bench contributed 32 points.
Jeremiah “Paco” Lee had 11 points and Meaz Cope, subbing for Goldwire, had 10.
“A game like this gave some guys valuable minutes,” Priddy said. “(Cope) is one of those guys coming back from football. He showed he’s an athletic kid and earned more playing time.”
More importantly, the defense couldn’t have been more suffocating while surrendering only eight field goals during the first three quarters.
“To be honest, that’s the best defense we’ve played for 3 ½ quarters,” Priddy said. “We did a good job of playing five guys against the basketball which is what we’ve been talking about in practice. Being ready to help, all that stuff we’ve been drilling.”
It made for an easy night against an opponent that usually plays the Rebels tough. Since 2008, ECHS and Richmond Hill are 17-17 head to head. In the last 10, 5-5.
This time, five different Rebels made field goals to start the game and ECHS built a 12-5 lead after the first quarter.
The Rebels hit Richmond Hill with a 15-0 run during a five-minute span of the second and third quarters to finish off the Wildcats.
Rashad Scott had six of his team-high 12 points in the third quarter. Ashley Thompson had seven of his nine points in the quarter.
ECHS played without Wallace and Brown on Saturday as well, but knocked off undefeated Portal, 57-52. Scott led the way with 20.
The display of depth was encouraging for a squad hoping to be among the region contenders after winning 17 and 18 games the last two seasons.
ECHS had been off nearly two weeks.
“Now we’ve had about eight (practices) to get our defenses set and work on some things. If we continue to play like this, we’ll be fine,” Priddy said.