RICHMOND — The move to the Mountain Valley Conference meant tougher competition. Tougher competition meant a less sparkling record for the Richmond Middle High School girls basketball team. A weaker record meant having to play a preliminary round game in the Class C South playoffs.

A harder road, right? That’s not how center Sydney Tilton was looking at it.

“I always like an extra game,” she said. “We are not good with big breaks.”

Given a chance to warm up before heading to the Augusta Civic Center, the No. 6 Bobcats took advantage of it, shaking off early rust en route to knocking off No. 11 Waynflete, 49-25, Tuesday night to advance to the C South quarterfinals.

Sydney Tilton scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Richmond (14-5), while Bryanne Lancaster had nine points and six rebounds, Ashley Abbott scored seven and Lindsie Irish had five points to go with nine boards.

“I’m actually glad we had a prelim,” said Ladner, whose team got a bye straight to the Augusta Civic Center the last three years. “The last two years we’ve been the No. 1 seed, we go two weeks without playing anybody. … I’m hoping by playing this game, that gets us ready for next week.”

Lydia Giguere scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds and two blocks for the Flyers (6-13), who were crippled at the worst time by suspensions to four starters and six total players for “breaking athletic code.”

“That put us in a really hard position and we had one day to prepare some of our subs,” coach Mike Jefferds said. “I feel bad for this young lady (Giguere), who’s had an outstanding high school career. … She plays her heart out, and unfortunately she was let down by her teammates for doing something stupid.”

EARLY NERVES: Playoff experience abounds on the Richmond roster, but early on, the Bobcats looked like postseason newcomers.

Richmond led only 6-2 going into the final minute of the first quarter, making only three of their first 22 shots and missing 15 straight attempts from the field at one point and allowing Waynflete, despite shooting and turnover woes of their own, to stay in the game.

“I think in the first quarter, we had some jitters,” coach Mike Ladner said. “It took us a little while to work through those. … But once they got over the jitters, I thought we played pretty good.”

Tilton said the team kept its composure even as the early shots weren’t falling.

“We come together, ‘Hey guys, we’ve been here before,’ ” she said. ” ‘We need to start something.’ We’ve been there, we know that.”

Tilton helped provide that spark, scoring six quick points in the final minute to give Richmond a 12-4 lead after the first quarter, and the Bobcats knocked down three 3-pointers in the second for a 24-8 halftime lead.

“They did a good job early taking away the inside, double- and triple-teaming Syd,” Ladner said. “I felt like once we started to make our outside shots, it opened it up some.”

ACTIVE HANDS: While Richmond built its lead, the Bobcats didn’t let the Flyers get going. Richmond harassed Waynflete ballhandlers — many of whom were pressed into bigger roles due to the suspensions — and reaped the benefits of rushed dribbles and passes, forcing 16 turnovers in the first half alone and 28 for the game.

“We talked a lot about talking on defense to make it so they had to focus on what they were doing, and we knew where we needed to be and when we needed to be there,” Lancaster said. “Communicating really helped us, a lot.”

Waynflete took only 19 shots in the first half compared to Richmond’s 40, and made only three of them.

“I think our girls did a really good job of pressuring and not reaching and picking up those stupid fouls,” Ladner said. “And I think part of it was their play. They were nervous, they had some jitters too.”

SHORTHANDED: The suspensions derailed Waynflete’s chances at the upset before the game even started, but Jefferds praised the resilience of his team, which also got eight points from Kilee Sherry and 10 rebounds from Avis Akers.

“They didn’t back down to the pressure of the situation. They stepped up, and you know what, they got shots up, they weren’t afraid to shoot, they weren’t afraid to mix it up, and that’s all we can ask of them,” Jefferds said. “(The Bobcats) were clearly the better team, but this was about life lessons, and I think we learned some tonight.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM