RICHMOND — In a classification in which 19 of the 20 girls basketball teams come from just two conferences, the Richmond Bobcats are the odd ones out.

Between the Mountain Valley Conference and Western Maine Conference, the overwhelming majority of Class C South has a familiarity with the teams they’ll be facing come tournament time. Then, there’s Richmond, Class C South’s lone East/West Conference representative, all by itself.

It’s a tough spot to be in for Richmond, which has faced all kinds of different schedules since the switch from four basketball classes to five in 2015-16. Yet as was the case in the Bobcats’ 82-43 loss Thursday to North Yarmouth Academy, the opportunities to test itself are still there for a Richmond team aiming to be in Augusta come February.

Since classification reshuffling seven years ago bumped Richmond up from Class D to Class C, it has faced all sorts of different schedules. The team has largely played a mix of East/West and Western Maine Conference schools since then, though it did play two years in the Mountain Valley Conference from 2017-19.

It’s a format that’s seen Richmond go from one extreme to the next in terms of opposition. The loss to WMC powerhouse and state championship contender NYA, for instance, came just two days after the Bobcats (6-2) routed Class D school Temple Academy 66-14 for its most lopsided win of the year.

“It’s tough because you go from playing in the East/West Conference — and it’s a good conference, don’t get me wrong — and a lot of Class D schools to playing a game like this,” said Richmond head coach Mike Ladner. “It’s hard to transition from one to the other, but that’s the way it is, and you can’t make any excuses.”


Richmond’s Breonna Dufrense, left, tries to pass around North Yarmouth Academy defender Angela Huntsman during a basketball game Thursday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

In this instance, Richmond, though able to get some penetration thanks to its size, was unable to contain the speed and fluidity of NYA’s Angel Huntsman. The senior guard drove to the hoop with ease and made a number of outside shots, and her defense as well as that of Graça Bila forced the Bobcats into numerous turnovers.

The game, lopsided as was, also served as a useful measuring stick for Richmond. Teams such as NYA are the ones the Bobcats have to be prepared to play next month and to do that, Ladner said, his team will need to defend the 3-point line better and improve in transition defense.

If there was a bright spot for Richmond, though, it was the team’s ability to beat NYA on the boards. The Bobcats got a combined 23 rebounds from Kara Briand, Jayden Brillant and Izzy Stewart, the latter of whom also added 12 points in just her second game back from injury.

“When you have (a big who can make shots like that), that’s huge,” Ladner said of Stewart, whose 10 second-half points included a number of impressive mid-range floaters. “She’s just coming back from a stress fracture, so she’s on limited minutes right now, but she’s a good young player.”

The Bobcats, whose other loss came against C South contender Old Orchard Beach, will take on another tough team out of the conferenceh when they travel to face Monmouth Academy on Jan. 17. With the MVC now playing non-conference games, Richmond’s scheduling options will only grow if the team remains in Class C in the years to come.

“We have three MVC teams on our schedule this year between Monmouth, Boothbay and Buckfield,” Ladner said. “Our plan is to get to Augusta and go from there, so hopefully, this will get us set to do that.”

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