See photos from the RCHS vs. SSHS game here.
The Russell County boys basketball team had somewhat of a slow start to the season, but there may not be many teams around that want to play them right now. The Warriors have used a smothering defense and a fast paced offense to win five of their past seven games. The winning started with the Lee County Holiday Classic, where the Warriors started off with a 50-43 victory over Valley. They dropped the semi-final game against a very tall Barbour County team, before blowing out Loachapoka 71-45 to finish third in the tournament. The Warriors were led by Dallas Harper and DJ Epps at the guard position, while Mercury Wilkins controlled the paint. Radarius Hinnint was often unstoppable in driving the ball to the basket.
The Manchester Blue Devils were able to squeak by the Warriors by a score of 59-56 the day after Christmas, but Coach Ronnie Battle was able to get his team back on track in the Muscogee County Christmas Showcase. While the Warriors got a bad draw, having to play each of their games in the home gyms of their opponents. They still took care of business. The first game was against Columbus High at Columbus High. Russell County jumped out to a fast 11-1 lead, before Columbus was able to come back and take a 17-16 advantage, after the first quarter. Both teams played good defense in the second quarter, with Eric Goss playing strong inside the paint and helping the Warriors to a 24-22 halftime lead. Russell County started the half much the same way they did the first quarter, but this time with a 10-2 run. Impressive play from DJ Epps, Jorden Edwards, and Vesean Moody put Russell County up 41-29 going into the fourth quarter. Edwards and Hinnant led the Warriors in the fourth quarter to finish their opening game of the showcase with a 55-40 victory.
Russell County’s second game of the tournament was much closer. It’s never easy playing a team at their own gym, but that’s how the tournament was scheduled as Russell County had to play Kendrick at their gym. This game was much closer than the first, with Russell County holding a lead for most of the game. The Cherokees just wouldn’t go away, as the Warriors had a 36-32 lead at halftime and a 55-45 lead after the third quarter. Kendrick was able to close the gap in the fourth quarter, with Russell County having a two point lead at 66-64 with 1:49 to go in the game. DJ Epps was the key player in helping the Warriors clinch the game, beating almost every full court press that was thrown at him and hitting key free throws after Kendrick had no choice but to foul him.
The new year found the Warriors back home on Friday against area foe Benjamin Russell. Battle and his team made sure to take care of business, holding the Wildcats to only 29 points, while scoring 55.
Saturday’s home game against Smiths Station was the most interesting game of the season, and not just because of the action on the court. The power went out at the school toward the end of the girls game and never came back on. Luckily, the Russell County gym has skylights in the roof that provided just enough light to play the game. The officials had to shorten halftime, while keeping the time on the court. They also had to use the old school manual flip scoreboard to keep score. While the lights were off, the Warriors were on. Smiths was able to keep it close, with the two teams trading baskets for much of the game. In the end, Hinnant was just too much for the Panthers to handle. While the skylights worked for most of the game, 5:30 p.m. came quickly and still no power. Many fans turned their cell phone lights on, but the safety of the players come before anything else. The officials called the game after the third quarter, giving the Warriors a 40-33 victory.
Russell County had an area game against Opelika on Tuesday night, with more area games against the Bulldogs and Benjamin Russell coming up. The Warriors also have games remaining against Central, Smiths Station, and Northside-Columbus.