It’s no surprise that Richmond seniors Ciarra Lancaster and Alyssa Pearson are best friends. The two play with a group of best friends who have enjoyed the game since being part of a youth travel basketball team.
“The seven seniors have played together since the fourth grade,” Pearson said. “It’s pretty much a family.”
The seniors hope to finish in style Saturday when they take on two-time defending champion Washburn for the Class D state title. The Beavers have beaten Richmond in the past two championship games.
“We’re ready, I think,” Lancaster said. “I think we’re just going to have to play our game.”
The Bobcats hope for a half-court game to neutralize Washburn’s pressure defense. Pearson and Lancaster will be instrumental in that strategy. The two are bookends to 6-foot center Jamie Plummer, who has scored over 1,000 points in her career and is capable of taking over a game on her own.
Pearson, at 5-foot-11, and Lancaster, at 5-10, have emerged this season as bona fide scoring and rebounding alternatives to Plummer. In Richmond’s semifinal win against Hyde, the Phoenix used a diamond-and-one defense against Plummer and held her to a career-low four points. Pearson and Lancaster took up the slack by combining for 20 points.
Coach Molly Bishop often platoons the two, and in some respects they’re interchangeable. Pearson said when she sees Lancaster move from the bench to the scorer’s table, she knows she’s coming off the floor. That’s not always a bad thing, though.
“If she’s hot I don’t mind sitting on the bench the whole time,” she said.
Depending on the opponent, Bishop often plays Pearson, Lancaster and Plummer at the same time, giving them an imposing front line for any team, let alone one in Class D.
“It’s pretty hard to penetrate when you’ve got the three big kids on the floor at one time,” Bishop said.
Although similar in physical build, Pearson and Lancaster bring different games to the floor. Pearson is more an inside presence who scores most of her points in the paint. Bishop said Pearson has worked hard on her footwork, is hard to move off the low block and has developed an effective bank shot, If anything, she’d like her to use her size and strength more often.
“She posts up hard and it’s hard for kids to push her out of the way,” Bishop said.
Lancaster is deceptively quick for her size and a good shooter with 3-point range.
“Ciarra has this incredible knack to be in the right place at the right time,” Bishop said. “Every once in a while she’ll end up out of position, but her reflexes are so quick it doesn’t matter. And she’s fearless.”
Both Lancaster and Pearson have been key members of Richmond’s Western Maine championship softball teams the last couple of seasons. Lancaster batted .520 for the Bobcats last season while Pearson hit .326. Lancaster was also a key player on Richmond’s two state championship soccer teams in 2011 and 2012.
Neither plans to continue their athletic careers next year. In fact, both plan to study occupational therapy, Pearson at the University of New England and Lancaster at Kennebec Valley Community College. Both agree that playing sports in Richmond has been a rewarding experience.
“Everyone in the community knows who you are,” Pearson said. “It feels like everyone’s a part of it.”
Added Lancaster: “People look up to you more and people expect a lot out of you.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638