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NICK AGRO , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Brea Olinda's Reili Richardson has been selected the Orange County girls basketball player of the year by the Register.

Girls basketball player of the year: Reili Richardson, Brea Olinda

STAFF WRITER

There was no guarantee that she would be back on that stage. No way of knowing she and her teammates would get another crack at capturing a state title.

Of the 12 girls basketball teams that reached the 2015 CIF State Championships, only two found their way back for the 2016 championship round. Brea Olinda, led by standout guard Reili Richardson, was one of those squads.

As Richardson scored a game-high 26 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists, the Ladycats were able to defeat St. Francis of Sacramento, 64-51, and claim the championship hardware this time.

The title was the appropriate sendoff for the talented senior, and she has been selected by the Register as the Orange County girls basketball player of the year.

“It was a dream come true,” she explained. “I remember last year after (losing the championship game), telling myself that we are going to be back next year, and now here I am with a state championship.

“It's pretty cool to be a part of this program with tremendous tradition, and keeping the tradition going – with another state championship – is even better.”

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ALL-COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL

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By leading Brea to a 29-4 overall record and an unprecedented 10th state title, Richardson added her name to the list of the school’s all-time greats, as well as the list of the county’s top talents in recent history.

“When you have a special player like a Reili Richardson – who really is a once- or twice-in-a-career-type player – it makes the game easier,” Ladycats coach Jeff Sink said after their victory in the Southern California Regional championship game. “And I’ve ...been coaching a long time.”

Richardson was a first-team All-County selection as a junior and was on the second team as a sophomore.

As the lone senior – and clear No. 1 scoring option – for the Ladycats, the 5-foot-10 guard averaged 21-plus points a game for the season, and she became an almost unstoppable force in the state playoffs, where she averaged 24 points per game.

In Brea’s last four games of the year, Richardson tallied 32, 21, 27 and 26 points, making a combined 55 trips to the free throw line in that same span. She relentlessly drove to the hoop in the final stretch of the season.

“She’s been boxed-and-oned a lot, diamond-and-oned, face-guarded, and that’s happened for two years now,” Sink explained. “So we slide her back and forth from the shooting guard and the point position.

“When she’s playing at the one, she’s much more dynamic getting to the hole. And when she’s at the two, we run a lot more staggered screens so she can look for a three a little more aggressively. She’s come to realize over the last year, the philosophy of ‘This is what he’s trying to do to help me. This is what I can do to take advantage of the changing role that I have.’”

Richardson received a full scholarship to continue her playing career at Arizona State, and she was regarded as a five-star recruit in the class of 2016.

Four years of playing experience against some of the country’s top talent will pay dividends for Richardson at the college level. So too will the habits she picked up at Brea under Sink.

“I've competed at a high level for a while now, and I just continue to grow as a basketball player,” Richardson added. “I watch film and I learn at least one thing I could have done different every game.”

Looking back on what she accomplished this season, it would be hard to change anything.

Contact the writer: kconnolly@ocregister.com


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