RUSSELLVILLE - Madison Hargett scored a season-high 15 points on Tuesday night, helping Russellville rally from a double-digit second-half deficit to beat Brooks 37-35 in a key area matchup.
The Lady Golden Tigers (7-14, 2-2 in Class 5A, Area 16) trailed 25-15 midway through the third quarter before sophomore guard Madison Murray sparked them with a putback and a three-pointer from the top of the key.
“When we cut it to 25-20 in the third quarter, at that point I felt pretty good about where we were,” head coach Corey Thomaston said. “Both of those shots by Madison came within about a minute of each other, and they got us back in the game really quickly.”
Freshman guard Treyvia Pruitt followed with a basket to cut the lead to 25-22. After Brooks scored to push the lead to five, Pruitt buried her own three to get Russellville within two at 27-25.
Fallin Cox, another freshman, nailed a short jumper to tie the game, but Brooks (2-14, 0-4) countered with a three-pointer from Alexa West to go back in front. Hargett then raced up the floor and beat the buzzer with a runner from the foul line, leaving the Lady Golden Tigers trailing 30-29 at the end of three.
Russellville opened the fourth quarter with seven straight points, taking its first lead since 6-4 in the game’s opening minutes on a pair of free throws by Cox that made it 31-30 with 6:37 remaining. Hargett, a senior guard, followed with her third three-pointer of the night and then converted a turnover into a fast-break layup, stretching the lead to 36-30 midway through the fourth.
Neither team made another field goal the rest of the game. Brooks got five free throws from Sophia Patterson to trim the lead to one, and then Hargett went 1-for-2 at the line with six seconds left to make it 37-35.
Following a timeout, Brooks inbounded the ball and got it to midcourt before calling its final timeout. The Lady Lions then got the ball inbounds to junior post player Caroline McAdams, whose potentially game-tying shot bounced off the backboard and then the rim as time expired.
“It wasn’t a pretty win,” Thomaston said, “but our girls showed a lot of resiliency tonight. When we were down ten in the third quarter, they just kept working and kept fighting. Brooks came over here tonight expecting to get a win. Coach [Ryan] Roberson does such a good job with them, especially defensively. They really know how to take away what you do best and force you to do something else.
“I wasn’t expecting a game in the thirties tonight, but it was a critical win, because it helps us control our own destiny and keeps us right in the middle of things in the area race. We’ll take it.”
The Lady Lions focused their defensive efforts on Murray, Russellville’s leading scorer at 14.6 points per game. She did not make a field goal in the first half and finished with six points. Other players stepped up, including Hargett, who nailed a pair of first-quarter threes and then had three clutch baskets down the stretch; Cox, who scored four points during the decisive second-half run; and junior forward Jamie Hill, who buried a big-time three (her first of the season) in the second quarter when the Lady Golden Tigers were trailing by double-figures and struggling to find anything on offense.
“I thought Jamie Hill’s three was the shot that really turned the game around,” Thomaston said. “It got us back within single-digits, and it made our girls feel like, ‘Okay, we’re back in the game now.’”
Russellville won the first meeting between the two teams 42-30 in Killen on December 5, but Brooks got nine early points from McAdams on Tuesday and led 17-10 after one quarter. The Lady Golden Tigers tightened the screws defensively from that point on and held Brooks to just 18 points the rest of the night—and no field goals in the fourth quarter.
“I challenged our girls to start defending the way we need to defend,” Thomaston said. “We just weren’t doing that in the first quarter. We forced a miss on the initial shot a lot of the time, but we didn’t do a good job of checking out. They got some second-shot opportunities, and we put them on the line a few times. They did a good job of making free throws.
“After the first quarter, I thought our girls played with a lot more energy, intensity and passion on the defensive end. When we lock in and really defend, we can cause problems on that end of the floor.”
Pruitt finished with eight points for the Lady Golden Tigers, who shot 7-for-14 from the line as a team and made as many three-point baskets (six) as they did two-point baskets.
Patterson shot 9-for-10 from the line and led Brooks with 11 points. McAdams was 5-for-6 from the line and had nine. The Lady Lions finished 16-for-22 from the line as a team but made only one three-pointer.
Russellville will return to action with another area game at home on Friday against Lawrence County.
Varsity boys
Brooks 66 Russellville 56
Playing short-handed for the second straight game, Russellville nearly handed the unbeaten Lions their first loss of the season on Tuesday night before faltering in the final minute.
Down eight midway through the fourth quarter, the Golden Tigers (4-12, 0-4 in Class 5A, Area 16) got a three-pointer from Devin Buckhalter and two free throws from Calen Bragwell to trim the lead to 57-54 with 2:29 remaining.
Dusty Quillen made a pair at the line for Brooks (17-0, 4-0) to push the lead back to five, but then a driving layup by Brock Malone off a steal got Russellville back within three again at 59-56 with 1:12 left to play. The Golden Tigers would get no closer, however, turning the ball over on their next two trips and failing to score the rest of the way.
Quillen hit two more free throws to make it a five-point game, and then a layup by Jacob Bange off a turnover pushed the lead to 63-56. Blake Bange’s two free throws made it 65-56 and sealed the deal.
With leading scorer Lucas McNutt sidelined by the flu for a second consecutive game, Russellville fell behind 21-9 late in the first quarter. Senior reserve Logan Jones provided a spark off the bench with seven first-half points, and Buckhalter got rolling from the mid-range area to finish with 10 first-half points and help the Golden Tigers cut the lead to 30-28 by the break.
Malone opened the third quarter with a corner three to give Russellville its first lead of the night at 31-30, and Bragwell and Houston Kitterman each followed with a layup to push the lead to five. Brooks didn’t blink, getting three-pointers from Clay Miller, Avery Cox and Quillen to spark a 20-9 run that left the Lions leading 50-44 at the end of three.
Buckhalter finished with a game-high 18 points. Bragwell, Jones, Malone and Caden Parker added eight points apiece. Kitterman scored four, and Brooks Scott had two. The Golden Tigers, who entered the night making an average of nearly seven threes per game and shooting 70 percent from the foul line, hit just three threes on Tuesday and missed eight of their 15 free throw attempts.
The Lions went 9-for-11 from the line in the fourth quarter and finished the game 14-for-21. They also knocked down eight three-pointers. Eleven different players scored for Brooks, led by Miller with 11, Quillen with nine and Ben Hamner with eight.