Hello conference title and goodbye coach

Titans win I-MECK 4A title; veteran coach to retire

by Cliff Mehrtens

The final week of the regular season was full of surprises for the Hopewell High girls basketball team.

First, they rallied to win the I-MECK 4A conference championship. It took winning their final five conference games, and a bit of help when Hough lost its final two.

Hopewell finished 12-2 in the conference, a game ahead of Hough and Mallard Creek. The Titans used that momentum to  springboard into the conference tournament where they advanced to the final before losing to Hough. In the N.C. 4A playoffs, Hopewell beat Olympic in the first round and was eliminated by Butler in the second round.

The second surprise came at practice Feb. 13.

Hopewell’s Gary Richmond, a coaching veteran of 23 seasons, announced that this season would be his last. He’ll continue teaching, but said the main reason was to be able to watch his daughter play in college next season. She is Shareé Boyd, Hopewell’s star player.

“The most satisfying part of it is that Shareé goes out on top,” Richmond said. “I told myself five years ago when I started here that when she finished, I would too. I wanted to watch her in college.”

Richmond, 48, also has coached girls basketball, track and football at Vance High (10 years) and Providence High (eight years). He’s 93-43 at Hopewell heading into the conference tournament. He was 149-74 as Vance’s first girls coach, and won three conference titles and one regional championship there. He’s 21-11 in playoff games.

As conference champions, the Titans were guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs.

Hopewell’s shot at a third straight title looked tenuous after a 39-31 loss to Hough on Jan. 24. It dropped the Titans a game into second place.

“It was,” Richmond said, “the first time in three seasons we weren’t in first place.”

The season has been an endurance test of injuries, illnesses and lineup shuffling. Rarely did the Titans go more than three or four games with the same look. Toward the end of the season, the lineup included five guards, with Boyd (she’s 5 foot 11) taking on defensive duties in the low post.

After the Hough loss, Hopewell rallied by beating Lake Norman, winning road games at Mooresville, Mallard Creek and Vance, and closing the regular season with a 54-41 win against North Mecklenburg on Feb. 9.

And, a bit of help came Hopewell’s way when Lake Norman upset Hough in the final week, which dropped Hough into second place. Hopewell had snagged its third straight title.

“This (conference title) was the toughest I remember,” Richmond said. “But in the end, a win is a win. Shareé has been the only constant, really.”

Boyd led the Titans in scoring (16.5), rebounding (7.5), steals (3.5), assists (three) and blocks (1.9). She’s receiving attention from colleges in the Big South, Southern and South Atlantic conferences.

Bryanna Curry has averaged 10.6 points, despite battling three illnesses since Christmas.

“I don’t know if the players know the magnitude of what they’ve accomplished,” Richmond said. “It’s gratifying because there are five legitimate playoff teams in our conference.”

Richmond said he stresses to his team each season to “put something in the (trophy) case.” This season’s squad did, with its fresh conference championship trophy.

Richmond said he began gathering information about his coaching career (years, records, etc.) and was proudest of what had transpired away from the court.

Every girl he’s coached four years in his career, except for one, has gone to college.

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