RICHMOND — In February, the plans were set for a Richmond girls basketball team that was rich in experience and continuity.

But this is COVID. And things change.

In February, the Bobcats had just made the Class C South quarterfinals. They had all but three players coming back. They had made strides that season, and were poised to make more this winter.

Since then, however, the pandemic’s taken over. And ‘poof’ went the plans for a veteran-laden team at Richmond this season.

The Bobcats made their season debut Tuesday with a 42-32 loss to Lincoln Academy, and it was the opening act for a team that is younger and less seasoned than anyone was expecting coming in. A roster of 17 players is down to 10, due to players opting not to play this season, a group that includes three seniors and two juniors. Six of the 10 players are freshmen. There’s one returning starter, Macy Carver, who’s also the lone senior.

“We’ve taken some twists and turns,” coach Mike Ladner said. “We went from a pretty experienced and deep team, to a very young team with not much experience at all. … It’s a season of firsts. It’s going to be a whole new experience for most of these girls, other than basically Macy. We’re embracing just the opportunity to get a chance to play.”

Carver led with 18 points Tuesday, and Lila Viselli — one of the six freshmen — added five. Richmond has only been practicing consistently for about a week and a half, adding to the mystery element with the team.

“We haven’t even really had a chance to scrimmage ourselves,” Ladner said.

Despite the lack of experience, Ladner said he likes the potential of the group, which includes a trio of sophomores in Kara Briand (eight rebounds Tuesday), Sophie Wells and Jayden Brilliant, who will step into bigger roles, and a 6-foot freshman, Izzy Stewart (eight rebounds), who should help Carver give the Bobcats a solid post game.

“I’m excited, it’s a good little mix,” Ladner said. “It’s a good group of freshmen and sophomores, they’ve been playing together since they were in sixth grade, and I’ve actually had the opportunity to coach them some in the summer. I kind of know what I’m getting my hands into with this group. It’s just a matter of getting them on the floor and playing varsity basketball.”

The new-look Bobcats started strong Tuesday, leading 11-8 after the first quarter, but struggled to keep up with an Eagles team led by 12 points from Maddy York, 10 from Paige Lafernaye and nine from Reegan Dunican.

“The second and third quarter, we got ahold of things,” York said. “Our defense definitely improved when we were pressing. We were definitely getting to loose balls and (we) got them freaking out kind of, which was really good.”

Richmond senior captain Macy Carver, left, shoots against Lincoln’s Olivia Stiles during a game Tuesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The youth showed for the Bobcats, who trailed by as many as 17 in the third before cutting the gap to eight in the fourth. Carver, however, saw encouraging signs.

“This year’s definitely a whirlwind of surprises,” Carver said. “But I’m very confident in the players coming up, because I’ve seen them play throughout the years. And I thought we were all going to have quick chemistry. Tonight, I thought we did.”

Carver, who also had six rebounds, said she’s embracing more of a leadership role as the only upperclassman.

“They’re going to be looking up to me, and I’m kind of the one they look for for all the answers,” she said. “So it is a lot of pressure on me, but I’m excited.”

Learning will be one goal for the team this season. The other, Ladner said, is sending Carver off with a strong senior season. The 6-foot center is hoping to play in college, with an interest in some of the Division III schools in the state.

“We want to try to showcase her some,” Ladner said. “She’s trying to be a well-rounded player, which I told her she’s going to need to be to play at the next level. She’s embraced it.”

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