AUGUSTA — Richmond dominated virtually throughout its Western Class D quarterfinal against Hyde until midway through the fourth quarter when the Phoenix pulled to within six points of the Bobcats after a 10-0 run.

There was little doubt who the Bobcats would turn to to get back on course. After a time out, they gave the ball to junior Kelsea Anair and got the heck out of the way.

“She’s basically our floor leader out there,” Richmond coach Mike Ladner said. “She’s more like a point forward than a point guard. She’s our captain, so I look for her to lead.”

Without hesitation, Anair drove to the basket to make it an eight-point game and essentially clinch fourth-seeded Richmond’s spot in Friday’s semifinal against No. 9 Vinalhaven.

For Anair — a 5-foot-9 junior forward — the moment was really three years in the making, three years which led her to a role that brings with it the expectation of stepping forward in the biggest moments.

“This is my first year being a captain, so Coach is always emphasizing when it’s time to lead,” said Anair, who serves as a co-captain along with fellow juniors Autumn Acord, Kalah Patterson and Julie Plummer. “Us captains try to do that.”

Anair and her fellow captains were just getting their high school careers started when the Bobcats were in the last year of a three-year reign as Western Class D champions.

She admits it was an intimidating time, not only being around players who had enjoyed so much success, but knowing that they would be leaving a legacy behind that would be tough to duplicate.

“My freshman year we had 12 seniors,” Anair said. “It was nerve-wracking. Then, to have them leave and for me to have to fill their role, it was nerve-wracking.”

The Bobcats went through some ups and downs during an 8-11 2013-14 season, losing in the tournament quarterfinals. Then coach Molly Bishop left during the summer to become athletic director at Oceanside High School.

Ladner moved over from being an assistant boys’ basketball coach and installed a new offense while bringing back one of those seniors Anair looked up to, UMaine-Augusta star Jamie Plummer, to serve as an assistant coach.

“She’s very motivational to us,” Anair said.

Another new addition this year is freshman forward Sydney Tilton, already one of the best inside players in Western D. Her presence has allowed Anair to do more work outside the paint, where she can survey the offense and set up her teammates.

“We work really well together,” Anair said of her relationship with Tilton. “She’s been a huge help to the whole team. We clicked right away.”

Something clicked for the Bobcats as a team and, despite battling injuries and illnesses much of the season, they are 13-6 and one win away from returning to the regional title game.

Besides her freshman year on the court, Anair has tasted success more regularly in soccer and softball — sports the Bobcats have been winning championships in since she was in junior high.

Anair understands finding such success in basketball again will take a little longer. But she’s eager to do her part in leading them there.

“We’re a young team but we’d like to make it (to) at least Western Maine’s,” Anair said. “We’ve got new players and a new coach, so we’re improving.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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