BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Russell’s Brandon Rose shows some emotion after the Red Devils defeated the Tomcats, 69-65, to close out the regular season.
DON MCREYNOLDS | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND What a difference a month can make.
The last time they met — in early January — Ashland put on an offensive clinic at Russell and racked up points like a video game to win by 31.
Friday night, the Red Devils showed just how far they have come by knocking off the Tomcats on their Senior Night.
Connecting on bomb after bomb, Russell went 9-for-13 from beyond the arc and made plays down the stretch to hold on 6965 in Anderson Gym.
“It was amazing for our whole program from top to bottom,” said an exhilarated Red Devil coach Bryan Groves. “This is something we’ve been working for. It was a fullfledged win. I had family come in from Alabama. It makes this one even sweeter.”
After starting the season 2-9, Russell has climbed all the way back to .500 (13-13) heading into 63rd District Tournament play next week.
“Like I said in the pre-game, we are peaking at the right time,” Groves said. “This was special, but it’s not the end-all, say-all. We’ve got to be ready Tuesday (against Lewis County at Russell).”
The Red Devils shot 60 percent in handing Ashland only its fourth loss in 25 games.
Brandon Rose, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, scored Russell’s first nine points of the fourth quarter to give his team a 57-51 lead. Rose made all six of his floor shots on the night to finish with 13 points — more than doubling his season average.
“This is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Rose said. “For the seniors, it was our last game playing at Ashland. It feels good beating a team we haven’t beaten (here) for a long time.”
Russell’s last win at Ashland came on Jan. 4, 2013.
Rose made his only 3-point attempt to open the final period. Ashland answered with two baskets, but Russell responded with a play that had its cheering section roaring. Red Devils senior Austin Clark came down with an offensive rebound on his back, but managed to shovel a pass to Rose for a short jumper.
Ashland got as close as two points on a couple of occasions, but couldn’t get over the hump against a tough defense.
“Russell’s much improved,” Ashland coach Jeremy Howell said. “They shot the ball extremely well and were the better team tonight on both ends, no doubt.”
Ashland shot only 22-for-56, while the Red Devils hit 26 of 43.
“The defensive end right now is hard for us to guard,” Howell said. “We might want to figure that out very soon.”
The Tomcats also had their struggles at the free throw line, especially in the fourth quarter by converting only 3-of-7 and having another attempt waived off due to a lane violation.
“We miss 11 (free throws) overall and get beat by four, that’s a big issue,” Howell said.
Sophomore Tristan Miller led Russell’s long-range attack by drilling all three of his attempts. He came in as the area’s top 3point shooter at 50 percent.
“Tristan does not miss,” Rose said. “I would say he’s the best shooter in the region, and say it with confidence. I love having him as a teammate.”
Two of Miller’s long-range missiles came in the third quarter. The first stopped an Ashland 6-0 run that evened the score at 36.
Miller and Bobby Hale each finished with 16 points for the Red Devils. Clark added 10 points.
Devaunte Robinson and Chase Villers scored 15 apiece for Ashland, but Russell held the senior Villers to 4-for-16 shooting. Cade Brandt joined them in double figures with 11 points.
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