By Nate Thompson

FRUITPORT – The Richards family has brought a winning tradition to the girls basketball program at tiny Fruitport Calvary Christian.

First came Brad Richards, who has been coaching the team for five years, after 17 seasons of coaching in the Ravenna school district.

He brought along his three daughters, who all reached star status when they took the court at Calvary.

Taylor and Allyson Richards have already passed through the school, where each scored more than 1,900 career points. They helped the Eagles reach the Class D regional finals four times since 2012.

Both now play for the women’s basketball team at Cornerstone University.

That leaves youngest daughter Kelsey as the final Richards coming through the Calvary girls program.

Fruitport Calvary Christian Coach Brad Richards stands with his daughter and basketball standout, Kelsey Richards. Photo/Jason Goorman

Kelsey is only a sophomore, and plays on a team with no seniors. So a lot of people assumed this would be the season when the Eagles’ run of success would finally end.

And things started out pretty badly, with two straight losses to start the season. But since then the Eagles have rebounded to post a 9-3 record while playing a schedule that includes a lot of teams from much bigger schools.

The Eagles are also 2-0 in the Alliance League, and have extended their league winning streak to 37 straight games. They will host West Michigan Aviation Academy on Friday night.

Leading the charge has been Kelsey Richards, who has done a great job of picking up where her sisters left off, despite her tender age. The 5-foot-11 point guard is currently averaging a pretty incredible 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per game.

She has already surpassed the 800 point mark for her varsity career, which extends back to eighth grade, which is allowed at very small schools.

During a lopsided win over North Muskegon on Jan. 22, Kelsey Richards poured in 33 points against a box-and-one defense that the Norse deployed in attempt to slow her down.

“She could have scored more, but we sat her early in the fourth,” Brad Richards said.

The Eagles have also received great production from the backcourt duo of Kristina Warren and Emily Wesner, as well as post players Lizzie Cammenga and Brionna Johnson. They even have an eighth-grader, Cate Anhalt, who has contributed.

Kelsey Richards dribbles past a defender during a game against WMC earlier this season. Photo/Jason Goorman

“I was thinking that this year was the season that I’d take my lumps,” Brad Richards said. “But I couldn’t be happier. I’m surrounded by girls who love the game, always give their best effort, and after some early adversity, they’ve really responded. We’ve got no seniors and three juniors and out of those three, only one has played varsity basketball before this season.”

Kelsey Richards said she’s been blessed to have learned the game from her father and older sisters.

“My dad’s been a big factor in helping me become the player I am today,” she said. “My shooting form used to be all messed up, but it’s a lot better now with his help. And I’ve got really skinny arms, so he’s encouraged me to get in the weight room to get stronger.

“With Taylor, I always watched her dribble the ball up the court, so that made me want to work on my ball-handling and bring that skill to my game,” she added. “And with Ally, being a post player, I’ve tried to pick up how she plays against girls that may be taller.”

Brad Richards said the sky is the limit for Kelsey, who started her varsity career operating in the low post offensively, but prefers being a distributor and playmaker.

“I’d say she’s the best overall player, talent-wise,” the coach said, comparing Kelsey to her older sisters. “We run her at point guard, so she’s developed those skills and she’s a way better three-point shooter than her sisters.

“What stands out the most is her leadership,” he added. “She smiles on the court like Isiah Thomas. Seeing that, it just calms everyone down. She’s vocal with her teammates in the ‘rah rah’ way, but sometimes she’s also like, ‘Give me the ball, we need a bucket right now!’”

Kelsey said it would be “really cool” to eventually pass her sisters’ scoring records, then follow in their footsteps by playing at Cornerstone. But she isn’t ruling out the idea of blazing her own trail.

“I always go to (Cornerstone’s) summer camp and it would be really fun to play with Ally again,” she said. “But I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. We’ll see what God wants me to do.”