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Russellville boys take area title with win over West Point

Post-season basketball got underway for the Russellville boys’ and girls’ varsity teams as they battled it out against the West Point Warriors in the Class 5A, Area 15 tournament.

After a bye in round one, the top-seeded RHS boys hosted West Point Feb. 12 in the area championship game, and the Golden Tigers got a 68-64 win.

Earlier in the week, the Lady Golden Tigers traveled to West Point and fell to the Lady Warriors in the first round by an 81-42 final score to end the season for the RHS girls.

In the boys’ game, Russellville faced the task of playing West Point without senior Brooks Scott. The starter and key contributor suffered an ankle sprain in practice leading up to the game. Fellow senior Jeb Bishop, however, stepped up in a big way, scoring 26 points to lead the team to victory.

Russellville (15-7) got off to a fast start and used pressure defense to set the early pace. The Golden Tigers jumped out to a 23-12 first-quarter advantage, and Russellville led 39-28 at the half.

West Point heated up in the second half, outscoring the Golden Tigers 20-19 in the third period and kept the pressure on Russellville with a 16-10 fourth quarter, but RHS held on for the victory.

Along with his offensive contributions, Bishop additionally had an important block of a West Point shot and a deflection on defense down the stretch.

Chandler Dyas joined Bishop in double figure scoring with 16. Eli Gipson and Boots McCulloch added nine points each. Conner Warhurst made the most of his opportunity to start because of Scott’s injury, and he scored eight points.

“It was a heck of a dogfight tonight,” said Russellville head coach Patrick Odom. “I knew they wouldn’t go away. They made shots, but our guys, even in the absence of one of our best players, found a way to win, and that’s been the character of this group all year.”

RHS now advances to sub-regional play for the fourth time in six years and will matchup with Mae Jemison at Russellville. The Jaguars fell to Lee-Huntsville in the Area 16 title game.

The West Point girls were simply too much for Russellville. The Lady Warriors dominated the game, leading 31-8 at the end of the first quarter and 53-21 at the half. The WP advantage grew to 72-30 after three quarters before Russellville outscored the Warriors 12-9 in the game’s final quarter.

Russellville (3-20) got scoring from eight different players. Leah Rushing led the squad with 12 points. Anna Beth Oliver and Jayna Poss scored nine apiece, and Jenna Whitfield added six. Avery Watts had three, and she was followed by Ashlyn James, Amaya Carter and Jacey Moore with one point each.

“It just didn’t go our way tonight,” said Russellville head coach Jermaine Groce. “We talked about what we’re going to do to take the next step and the type of things that we need to do and prepare for in order to beat a team like this and advance to the next round.”

The Russellville girls had a young team in 2020-21, and Groce said hopes are high that the future is bright. “We only lose one senior, so we bring back a good group of kids. Hopefully, they got a lot of experience this year, and that experience can turn into some W’s next year,” Groce added.