BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
GRAYSON Russell hopes a new year will bring a renewed energy.
The Red Devils’ defense showed plenty of vigor, holding East Carter to 33 percent shooting in a 56-42 road victory on Tuesday night.
Russell coach Bryan Groves said his team faced quality competition over the holiday break. Despite a 1-5 result, he came away encouraged with the effort.
“We played at Simon Kenton and we were up in all three games and couldn’t finish,” Groves said. “We played hard and had a lot of good energy. Then we went to Louisville for three games and played really well. … That gave them a lot of confidence. That’s what we wanted. The last game was a win and we have carried that momentum into the new year and the guys have responded really well.”
The Raiders are without senior point guard Brady Bush, who is battling an injury, as they struggled on the offensive end of the floor.
“Obviously, we miss Brady Bush,” East Carter coach Brandon Baker said. “We are better than that. We just weren’t ready to play. We were on our heels. There were several times I looked up and was like, ‘Man, we are still in this game.’ I thought we had grownupalittlemorethan that.…Wehadarough night.”
East Carter held a 10-8 advantage near the end of the opening quarter. Tristan Miller came off the bench to splash a trey for Russell (4-9) and Brandon Rose followed with a short jumper in the lane as the Red Devils held the lead the rest of the way.
Miller hit all three of his attempts from behind the arc in the first half and finished with 11 points.
“We played him on the JV, trying to get his confidence up,” Groves said. “He hit eight free throws in a row and when he came into the varsity game, he stepped up and made a couple of big shots. He played well down the stretch for us.”
Miller nailed two triples during a 14-4 run midway through the second frame, helping turn the Russell margin to double-digits.
Groves said the offensive momentum started with defensive intensity.
“We played hard, especially in the second quarter,” Groves said. “We came out and started to put some real pressure on them. We did a great job of keeping the other team in front of us. Early in the season, teams were getting by us.
… We did a great job guarding the ball tonight. We played team defense.”
Bobby Hale led the Red Devils with 18 points. Austin Clark and Rose each added nine.
Chaz Whitt netted a few key buckets in the second half to record six points while grabbing nine rebounds. He carries the workload in the middle until Ryan Stump can return from injury next month.
“He’s come a long way,” Groves said of Whitt. “He is starting to respond and understand what we expect out of him. Tonight, he took a step in the right direction.”
East Carter (5-9) did find success from post players Jordan Brooks and Karrick Dyer.
Brooks had a team-high 18 points and was 6-for-6 at the charity stripe. Dyer added 10 points and seven boards.
“Jordan can be a really good player for us,” Baker said.
“It’s just a matter if he wants to get anchored down in his spot and not get pushed off.
We have to play better around him, too. We just didn’t have a good night. We never got settled in around the perimeter.
“Karrick always fights for us. I know what I’m going to get from Karrick. Sometimes, you wish you knew what you are going to get from everybody else.”