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Benjamin Russell boys hold off Russell County for victory
Posted On:
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Boys Basketball
Boys Basketball

By Liz Arbogast

In the first meeting with Russell County, Benjamin Russell’s boys basketball team didn’t fare so well. In fact, it was one of the Wildcats’ biggest losses of the season.

But Friday night, the Wildcats knew exactly what was on the line. If they couldn’t manage to take down the Warriors, they’d have no hope of hosting the Class 6A Area 6 tournament. They used that fact to secure a 60-54 victory

“I think the kids were just focused, and we were locked in,” Benjamin Russell coach Lewis Daniel said. “We talked about the position we were in with the area. We have already dropped a couple games, so we had to win to get splits. If we don’t win, we didn’t have a chance anymore. I think they locked in on that fact, and we gotta come back Tuesday to do the same thing against Opelika.”

The final score was actually closer than the game looked for the majority of the second half. Russell County cut BRHS’ lead to just four points early in the third quarter, as it took advantage of three straight Wildcat turnovers and converted them into points

But after that, Benjamin Russell seized momentum and didn’t let up. It went on a six-point run capped by a Kobi Crabb layup to pull its lead back out to double figures, and after a 3-point play from Russell County, the Wildcats once again responded with six straight points.

Holding onto a 44-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Benjamin Russell got a big spark from Tre McMillian, who poured in five straight points to give his squad a 20-point edge.

“That run (in the third and beginning of the fourth) was huge,” Daniel said. “We’ve been on the road so much, and the kids made that point too. Coming back home, I’m sure, was a big incentive for them to show the home crowd that we’ve been playing good basketball all year; we’ve just been falling short of getting the ‘W,’ and tonight we put all that together.”

Russell County wasn’t about to go down without a fight though. The Warriors started to turn up the heat defensively and quickly sliced the deficit to 56-45 with 1:14 left, forcing Daniel to take a timeout.

“I was a little concerned that we were not thinking basketball strategy over just playing the game,” he said. “Sometimes you have to push strategy in what you’re doing, and I think once we called that last timeout and talked about it, we made the points of where we were and how we could finish.

“After that, I didn’t worry about it anymore. They had to foul us. We didn’t have to take any shots, and if they didn’t foul us, we’d run the clock out.”

Russell County did foul the Wildcats, who struggled from the free-throw line, and a few quick buckets helped it pull within single figures. But the effort was too little too late for the Warriors.

With another must-win game against Opelika on the horizon Tuesday, Daniel wanted to focus on the positives of Friday’s win but also recognized there are some areas that still need to be cleaned up.

“Our turnover ratio was still a little higher than I would have liked for it to have been,” Daniel said. “But they were pressing us, and we’re still having some issues with that. But I saw a total different level of intensity and concentration. Our defensive game showed itself again, and we scored and we rebounded well tonight. All those things we talked about previously came together for us tonight.”

Benjamin Russell put three in double figures. Gavin Edwards led the way with 16 points while Za Stowes followed closely behind with 14. McMillian finished with 10. Jaikobee Gamble had a fine performance on the board, bringing down 15 rebounds. Both he and Qua Howell scored eight points apiece.

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