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Second-half surge leads Benjamin Russell girls to win
Posted On:
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Girls Basketball
Girls Basketball

By Liz Arbogast

Perhaps a little complacency got the best of Benjamin Russell’s girls basketball team Friday night, but it just didn’t quite look like itself in the early goings of a Class 6A Area 6 game against Russell County.

Leading by just six points at halftime, the Wildcats struggled early with turnovers against a winless team they had previously beaten by more than 20 points. But all that changed as BRHS came surging out of the locker room and eventually walked away with a 63-32 victory to move to 2-1 in the area.

Benjamin Russell (12-4, 2-1) was unstoppable in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors (0-11, 0-3) by 20 points in the frame to take a commanding lead into the final period.

“We weren’t playing as well as we could have, and they struggled really with ball handling,” Benjamin Russell assistant coach Prentice Thomas said. “(The 1-3-1) is great for putting pressure at the top, but for some reason, we started off slow. Normally in the second half, we pick it up and we did that in the third quarter. It was the best quarter we played night.”

As has been characteristic for the Wildcats this season, they did seem to struggle early on. Point guard Aaliyah Thomas helped get things going with a pair of assists and a steal and fast-break layup to start the second, giving Benjamin Russell a 16-7 edge with 5:34 left in the second. But then the Wildcats started to get lackadaisical with the ball and Russell County cut its deficit to as little as four points late in the second quarter.

After finishing with seven turnovers in the second frame alone, Benjamin Russell got it together in the second half and had just eight miscues the rest of the way.

One big thing that helped the Wildcats keep the lead the entire game, sans a basket by Russell County to open, was their rebounding. BRHS finished with a 38-26 advantage on the boards, and both forwards Jaaliyah Caldwell and Brooklyn Edwards finished with more than 10 rebounds.

“The rebounding was very important,” coach Thomas said. “That gave us second-chance shots. We did better on the defensive rebounding and boxing out. Especially on free throws, we were boxing out the shooters and things like that.”

Caldwell had one of her most prolific performances of the season, racking up 31 points and 16 rebounds. She did a great job of getting to the free-throw line, as 11 of her points came while the clock was stopped. Edwards finished just two points shy of a double-double.

Aaliyah Thomas stuffed the scoresheet. In addition to six points, Thomas contributed five rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

The Wildcats will turn around Tuesday and host Opelika, which is the only team that stands in their way of hosting the area tournament. If Benjamin Russell could turn the tide on the Bulldogs, it would likely come down to a coin toss for who hosts. But that’s going to be a tall order, as Opelika took down Benjamin Russell 63-42 in their only meeting so far this season.
“It’s going to take everything we have,” coach Thomas said. “We have a long week next week with multiple games, and it’s going to take everything. We’re going to need help from everybody. We gotta play tough, we gotta stop turning the ball over, and we gotta get free throws. But the biggest thing is we need to start fast.”

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