RICHMOND — Maybe it was first-game jitters, maybe it was an unfamiliar opponent, or maybe it was both. No matter the reason, it took the Madison Area Memorial High School girls basketball team about a quarter and a half to start clicking in Saturday afternoon’s season-opener at Richmond. Once the Bulldogs found their groove at both ends of the court, however, they clicked, taking a 45-39 Mountain Valley Conference win over the Bobcats.

Richmond, now in its second year in Class C, joined the MVC this season, leaving the Class D East/West Conference. Richmond coach Mike Ladner said he noticed the differences in style of play immediately.

“Definitely a lot more pressure than we’re used to seeing. They played aggressive, played physical. Overall, it’s what I expected. They’re a good program,” Ladner said.

The Bobcats started out hot, and held a 20-13 lead with 5:36 left in the first half. Three 3-pointers in the first quarter, two by Caitlin Kendrick and one from Ashley Abbott, helped Richmond take the early lead. But as Madison began to clamp down on Sydney Tilton and Richmond’s inside game, the Bobcats went cold from the perimeter.

“I think we started to help inside and make them pass the ball back out. They took some threes, made a couple of them, but they gave us some opportunities when they started to miss some of those. We get rebounds, and we get good shots on our end,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said.

Added Ladner: “We struggled for a while hitting from outside.”

Madison outrebounded Richmond, 38-29, limiting the Bobcats’ second-chance opportunities. Madison closed the first half with a 9-0 run to take a 22-20 halftime lead. While Richmond took a brief 26-24 lead in the third quarter, the Bulldogs regained the lead for good on an Ashley Emery baseline jumper with 2:46 left in the third.

“We just tried to get up our intensity, because we know our defense has been kind of bad,” Emery, who scored a game-high 17 points, said. “(Offensively) we slowed it down a lot. Usually we just keep pushing and pushing, but we slowed down and got into our plays.”

It appeared Madison would pull away when it opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to push the lead to 39-29. Six straight points from Richmond freshman Bryannah Shea cut the Bulldogs lead to 39-35 with five minutes to play. Madison was able to keep the lead between four and six points the rest of the way, although Veneziano said the team needs to be more patient when it has the chance to close out a game, rather than put up a shot.

“We’re working on the patience. It’s hard with kids to get them to do that. We just want to stress we can get the game over with. We don’t need to take shots. We’re already ahead. It clicked. I think they got the idea before the game was over,” Veneziano said.

Lauren Hay scored all nine of her points in the fourth quarter for Madison. Marah Hall grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Richmond was led by Tilton, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine boards. Bryanne Lancaster chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds for Richmond. The Bobcats will be a tough addition to the MVC schedule, Veneziano said.

“I think they’ll do very good in the MVC. They have an inside game. They have people who shoot the 3-pointers. Everybody’s marked up at the 3-point line looking for the ball to be kicked out,” Veneziano said. “When you have that, you have kids who are looking for that, they’ll be a very good team before the end of the year.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM