BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL No need to curtail the cuticles of the Russell basketball team. The Red Devils found themselves in another nail-biter on Friday night against district foe Raceland. Freshman Brady Bell rang up a teamhigh 18 points, including some key buckets down stretch as the Red Devils outlasted the Rams, 50-49, at Marvin Meredith Gym.
Russell has opened the season with four of its first five contests decided by four points or less.
“This was a good way to finally finish one,” Russell coach Bryan Groves said. “We struggled a lot. We got in foul trouble and Tristan (Miller) wasn’t playing well. We faced a lot of adversity, but the guys came through. Brady is a freshman and he stepped up. He was ready to play. This one meant a little more to him.”
The Red Devils found themselves down five with four minutes to play. Bell was left open and drained a triple. The basket was followed by Malakai Anderson’s layup to knot the score at 44-44.
Jared Goodman supplied a putback to give Russell the lead for good and Bell hit two free throws to increase the margin to 50-47 with 16 ticks left on the clock.
“That’s two games from him,” Groves said of Bell. “At Morgan County (during the EKC Tournament), he stepped up and hit free throws. Tonight, he hit free throws. He is just a big-time player. He is going to be very special if he keeps working like he does. It was a good team win. He didn’t do it all himself. He has the athleticism. He can play on the perimeter and he can play in the post.”
Kyle Adkins drained a quick bucket to cut Raceland’s deficit to one. The Rams had a final try, but it was off the mark.
Miller had 12 points for Russell (3-2). Point guard Charlie Jachimczuk added 11.
“In the first half, we could have been up 15,” Groves said. “Unforced turnovers. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We missed some bunnies. Those will clean up as we go. This is probably the biggest crowd some of these kids have ever played in front of. You could see them in the locker room. Their knees were shaking, and they had the adrenaline flowing. They work their tails off and when they achieve success, you have to be happy for them.”
Raceland increased a three-point halftime lead with a 10-2 spurt to open the third quarter. Consecutive and-1s from Kirk Pence and Adkins gave the Rams a 38-29 advantage. It forced a Red Devils timeout as Groves needed more energy from his team.
Goodman answered the call and played extended minutes in the second half. His transition basket started 10 straight Russell points to end the frame.
“We were searching there in the second half,” Groves said. “We were flat. We gave up a run, but I told them, we had to take one possession at a time. Then they started getting a possession, then getting a stop. We did a better job guarding the basketball. Overall, we faced adversity. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a good win for us.”
Raceland coach Bob Trimble was proud of the way his team rebounded to start the fourth quarter but felt the pace of play was too quick at times in the second half.
“We started to get hurried and take bad shots,” Trimble said. “We got in the lane when we wanted all night long. They had trouble keeping Kyle and Kurt out of the paint and Greg Mershon as well. We got out of what we were doing. (Russell) turned it up a little bit. We got in a hurry and that is the same thing we did in the Coal Grove game. We just have to slow it down and make sure we get what we want offensively.”
Pence caught fire in the final eight minutes, scoring eight straight points midway through the stanza. The sophomore’s floater in the lane gave the Rams their final lead at 46-44. He tallied a game-high 24 points.
“Kirk is a warrior,” Trimble said. “He works and spends all kinds of time on his game. He plays with a lot of confidence. Kirk is a guy that we want to make big shots for us.”
Adkins was also in double figures with 10 points for Raceland (3-3).
Russell improves to 1-1 in 63rd District seeding play. The Rams open at 0-1.