By Chad Dixon
The Russell County Warriors (11-5, 1-0) and Lanett Panthers (8-6, 1-1) looked to be as evenly matched as any two basketball teams could be on January 6 at the Russell County High School gymnasium. The Warriors defeated the two-time Class 2A State Champs 57-53 in a game where no team led by more than seven points and most of the game was a one-possession game.
“Any time you can pick up a win against a championship team like Lanett, it is great,” said Russell County Head Coach Ronnie Battle.
The Warriors closed the first quarter with their largest lead of the game (15-8). This was in large part to Russell County out-rebounding the Panthers 8-6 within the first eight minutes of the game. Lanett would close the gap in the second quarter outscoring the Warriors 15-12. Lanett’s Tye Truitt scored six points with a steal in the second quarter and finished with 20 points overall to lead his team. Russell County maintained the lead at the half 27-23.
Each team would trade shots in the first half of the third quarter. With 4:29 remaining in the third, Lanett’s senior forward Anquavious Pollard’s two successful free throw shots would tie the game at 31. Russell County’s Caleb Alexander would put the Warriors up by two on the next possession, but Lanett would tie the game up again. Quae Houston’s three-pointer with 2:43 remaining in the third would give Lanett their first lead of the game (36-35).
The two teams entered the final quarter tied up at 40. Much like the start of the third, the two teams traded field goals for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Russell County’s Jaquan Pritchett sank a field goal as he was fouled with 3:40 remaining. He was successful at the free throw line to give Russell County a 52-50 lead.
With less than a minute left on the clock, Lanett’s Emmanuel Little’s tip-in drew the Panthers to within one (54-53). Warriors’ Jawon Shepard’s free throw shot with 14.6 remaining extended the Warriors’ lead to 55-53. Pollard was fouled with 6.6 on the clock, but missed a pair of free throws to keep the Russell County lead at two. Alexander was sent to the line for Russell County with 5.9 seconds remaining with a chance to seal the win for the Warriors. He drained both shots to make it a two-possession game and Russell County would hang on for their 11th win on the season.
“Mistakes in previous games have haunted us, but I think they showed resilience in this game that will help us down the stretch,” Battle added.
Alexander led the Warriors with 16 points; Rodney Battle had 13. In addition to Truitt’s 20, Pollard scored 15 points for the Panthers. Russell County will travel to play area rival Dothan on Jan. 12, while Lanett will host Sacred Heart Catholic.