RICHMOND — Bryanne Lancaster starred early. Sydney Tilton took over late. Just like that, the Richmond High School girls basketball team is starting to look at home in its new league.

The Bobcats pulled away in the second half, turning a three-point halftime advantage into a 49-33 runaway victory over Oak Hill, their first win since joining the larger schools of the Mountain Valley Conference.

The season isn’t even a week old, but the Bobcats (1-1), who won 18 games last year while playing out of the East/West Conference, were itching to win their first this season against a new tier of competition.

“It feels really good to get the monkey off our back, so to speak,” coach Mike Ladner said. “It’s a confidence-booster for us, to be honest with you, to be able to get that separation and get a lead and play with a lead.”

Tilton scored 23 points — 17 in the second half — while gathering 13 rebounds and eight steals, while Lancaster totaled 13, with 11 coming before halftime.

“We knew we were facing a good team. We know a lot of them on the team,” Tilton said. “It was nice to bring them here and come together despite who’s out, who’s not, the combinations we threw in, and break down what they were doing.”

While Richmond found an offensive rhythm as the game wore on, Oak Hill’s faded away. The Raiders (0-2) shot only 29 percent from the floor, missed 10 straight shots in a stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters, and struggled mightily from the free-throw line.

“They shot well, obviously (Tilton) is a great player, she didn’t miss too many shots out there,” said coach Michael Labonte , whose team got nine points from Abby Nadeau and seven from Desirae Dumais. “We’ve got a lot of kids that are trying to figure out varsity minutes, and we’re trying to figure out exactly where they fall as well. We’re just going to keep fighting.”

The Raiders matched the Bobcats for much of the way in the first half. The teams traded leads seven times, with Oak Hill getting nine points in the half from Nadeau and seven steals against the Richmond offense.

“There were some jitters at first, we were nervous, we played a little sloppy in the first half,” Ladner said. “It’s a Class B team, MVC. … We’re still trying to figure out our chemistry. It took us a half to get some flow going.”

Richmond still took a 23-20 lead at the break thanks largely to Lancaster, who hit a trio of first-quarter 3-pointers and knocked down two free throws with no time left after being fouled on a buzzer-beater.

“We practice it all the time. ‘All right, if you see that open shot, you need to take it,’ ” said Lancaster, who added nine rebounds and four assists. “We know where we can shoot, where’s our hot spot. We’re just getting the ball there.”

Tilton took it from there. The team’s only senior flourished in the second half, scoring 11 points in the third quarter alone and seven as the Bobcats ended the quarter on a 10-0 run to stretch a 29-26 lead to a 39-26 advantage. With the post game established, Richmond shot 58 percent in the third quarter.

“We made a couple of adjustments. We changed our offense up a little bit in the second half against their zone, that seemed to help,” Ladner said. “That pulled them out of their zone, and once they went to man, we just started pounding the ball in to Syd. Anytime people go man on us, we’re going to pound it in to Syd.”

Tilton was ready to put the game away, using her strength and footwork in the post to navigate through what became Oak Hill double teams.

“One of my favorite things about basketball is being able to find something and then run with it,” she said. “It’s nice to be on the outside, but be able to have the freedom to open up and get into a groove, feel it and go from there.”

“We gameplanned to try to make sure that whenever (Tilton) did get the ball, that she was crowded,” Labonte said. “The girls in the first half hit some outside shots, so you’ve got to pick your poison sometimes.”

With the deficit growing, the shooting touch Oak Hill needed to hang close dried up. The Raiders made only two of their last 13 shots, and missed their first 12 free throws before finally making their last two with 20 seconds to go.

“It’s been a struggle so far,” Labonte said. “We’re probably taking 30 to 50 foul shots a day, so it’s not like it’s something they’re not doing. It’s just been a rough start to the season. They’re all decent shooters, so I’m sure it’s going to come around.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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