High School Sports

2011 Girls Basketball Player and Coach of the Year

The recognition has continued to roll in for Ridgeland's girls basketball team, more than a month after it captured the Class 1-A state title.

Ridgeland's town council honored the team and a parade was held through the Jasper County town. But perhaps the biggest perk came last week, when the Jaguars took the floor of the S.C. State House to be recognized with a resolution praising the state champions.

For senior Brittany Richardson, The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year, the trip to Columbia was her second. She had never been to the state's capital before this season. And both trips can be attributed to the Jaguars' state title.

"I'm still excited and shocked we got one," said Richardson, who scored a team-high 17 points during the championship game in March. "I can still feel it like it was yesterday. I can recap everything that happened."

Ridgeland coach Frederick Toomer, The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, will now begin work helping his standout find a place to play next season. Richardson said she is considering S.C. State, Morris and Brewton-Parker. Toomer said coaches from Coker and Allen have called asking about Richardson.

Coaches who have seen Richardson play tell Toomer they like the way she runs the floor, her athleticism and the way she uses her hands. As a 6-foot post player, Richardson surprised opposing teams by often dribbling the length of the floor and scoring in transition. She averaged a team-best 17 points and 11 rebounds per game, numbers she fell well short of during the early games of the playoffs.

But Richardson bounced back, turning in one of her best performances of the season to help the Jaguars defeat St. Joseph's at Colonial Life Arena.

"It was my last game with those girls I grew to know," Richardson said. "I just felt like I had to give it my all."

Toomer, who has coached Ridgeland's girls each of the school's four seasons, delivered the area's first state title in more than 50 years. Jasper County High School, where Toomer coached three seasons before the split, could not claim a title. And Hardeeville fell in the title game the previous two seasons.

Personnel has changed, Toomer said. But defense has always been the focus of his teams. He has admitted to having more skilled offensive players on past teams, players that allow more reliance on halfcourt sets.

That wasn't a style that fit this group of Jaguars. They were at their best harassing guards up top and turning steals into quick points. Low-scoring games were the norm. And Ridgeland thrived when baskets were scarce.

The Jaguars held St. Joseph's to three field goals during the second half of the state title game. They allowed only 28.6 points per game during their five playoff victories.

As impressive as Richardson's individual efforts were, Toomer told his players he has had players of her caliber in the past. The reason for the Jaguars' postseason accolades can be attributed to how the team played together on one end of the floor.

"That was the main focus and that's what we can contribute the championship to -- our defense," Toomer said. "It wasn't necessarily that we had this impressive offense, this juggernaut of an offense or one player who's just a super-gifted offensive player. It was defense every night, that team defense."

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