Bolden, Richardson take WAW postseason honors

Amber Richardson drives to the basket during the Lady Patriots' state semi-final win over Decatur Heritage. Richardson is the West Alabama Watchman Player of the Year.

Amber Richardson drives to the basket during the Lady Patriots’ state semi-final win over Decatur Heritage. Richardson is the West Alabama Watchman Player of the Year.

Linden ascended to unprecedented heights in 2016, going from well off the basketball radar to the Class 1A state championship game. The meteoric rise was probably best summed up by Decatur Heritage Christian Academy head coach Paula Armstrong when she stated, “I don’t know where they came from because I didn’t know who they were and then all of a sudden they burst on the scene.”

That quote came just moments after the Lady Patriots put the finishing touches on a 58-44 semifinal win over Decatur Heritage. And it stands to reason that Linden was anonymous to Armstrong given that the Lady Patriots had not been out of the sub-regional round since 2002 and were unranked entering this playoff run.

But Linden head coach Teressa Bolden said her team got better after every game. And the Linden team that lost games earlier in the season was not the same Linden team that finished the campaign at 18-7 in the state finals.

Linden's Teressa Bolden is the West Alabama Watchman Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

Linden’s Teressa Bolden is the West Alabama Watchman Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

Much of that credit goes to Bolden, who battled through years of building depth for the Lady Patriots including numerous campaigns in which she enlisted younger players as starters. When John Essex transfers Amber Richardson and Dajia Miller joined the Lady Patriot core of Imiya Agee and Tomysha Boykin for the 2015-2016 campaign, the onus fell upon Bolden to integrate the sophomores into her system.

By season’s end, Bolden’s team looked completely different than any squad she coached previously. The Lady Patriots often matched up with larger squads and countered with a roster that featured a 5-5 girl as the tallest player on the team. But none of it mattered. Linden out-rebounded, out-defensed, out-hustled and flat out out-shot nearly every team they encountered. And the majority of that credit rests on the shoulders of Bolden, who set an expectation level for her squad as they ran and pressed their way to the state title round.

For her efforts, Bolden is the West Alabama Watchman Girls Basketball Coach of the Year for 2016.

Joining her on the list of Watchman award winners is Richardson, who takes player of the year honors after emphatically reasserting herself on the prep basketball scene. Richardson made her presence known to Bolden while just a middle school student at John Essex. Richardson started for the Lady Hornets in the seventh and eighth grades. On one occasion, she grabbed 20 rebounds in a single game against Linden. When Essex closed following the 2013-2014 season, Richardson transferred to Linden and sat out her freshman season per the AHSAA eligibility rules.

This season, she became the engine that drove the Linden squad while taking on the daunting task of being the Lady Patriots’ sole post presence despite a stature and a frame that are not typically considered conducive to the role. And Richardson tackled it all with fervor.

She finished with the highest per-game averages in Marengo County in both scoring and rebounding, contributing 18.9 points and 12.6 boards per game. As a kicker, Richardson racked up 7.1 assists per contest as well.

Her honors include Class 1A, Area 4 Tournament MVP, South Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player, Class 1A Finals All-Tournament Team and the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 1A Girls Basketball All-State Team.

Now she can add to that list of accolades, West Alabama Watchman Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

West Alabama Watchman Girls Basketball All-County Team

First Team

Amber Richardson, So. – Linden

Ivery Moore, Sr. – Demopolis

Erica Bennett, Sr. – Demopolis

Tiffany Barber, Sr. – A.L. Johnson

Imiya Agee, Jr. – Linden

Second Team

DeeDee White, Sr. – Demopolis

Dajia Miller, So. – Linden

Courtney Hill, Sr. – Demopolis

Tomysha Boykin, Jr. – Linden

J’Mya Hall, 8th – Marengo