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franklin county times

Russellville rally falls short

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
RUSSELLVILLE - To the long list of positive attributes belonging to Athens senior center Richard Hendrix, add one more: a keen memory.
Hendrix remembered very well the last time he and the Golden Eagles traveled to Russellville, for a Class 5A sub-region game in 2001.
"Unfortunately, I do," he said. "I was just a freshman then. They beat us in double overtime; I think it was 44-42 or something like that. They were the No. 2 team in the state. Our leading scorer [Tavariez Timmons] quit the team right before we came over here to play. It was a pretty hostile environment. The crowd was unbelievable. We made a good run at them, but we came up just a little bit short."
Tuesday night's trip to Russellville worked out more to the Golden Eagles' liking.
Hendrix scored 22 points, and teammate Chad Horton poured in a game-high 27, as Athens held off a late rally by the Golden Tigers to remain unbeaten in area play with a 72-59 win.
Russellville (5-4, 0-3 Class 5A, Area 16) trailed by as many as 18 points in the third quarter before senior forward Jarrell Nesmith got hot, scoring 10 points in a 14-2 run that brought the Golden Tigers within five at 53-48 with 7:50 remaining.
"We started running the ball up and down the court a little more, and we raised our intensity," said Nesmith, who finished with a team-high 16 points. "We got some shots to fall, and we were able to get back in the game."
The Golden Tigers had a chance to draw even closer after Corey Trapp came up with a steal and fed a beautiful behind-the-back pass to a streaking Geoffrey Nelson.
Nelson, a high-jump champion for the Golden Tiger track team, had one thing on his mind as he approached the basket: throwing down a jam that would send the home crowd into a frenzy and push Russellville's comeback into overdrive.
There was just one problem.
"I didn't get up high enough," Nelson said. "I was trying to [dunk it], but I was just too low. I tried to adjust and lay it in, but it was too late."
Nelson missed the layup, and Hendrix found Horton for a three-point play on the other end to push the lead back out to 10 at 58-48.
The Golden Tigers got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"We missed some close ones inside, and we missed the front end of a 1-and-1, too," Russellville coach Tony Seals said. "Both times, they went down and scored. That's an eight-point swing right there, four points that we didn't get and four that they did.
"But you have to give Athens credit. They're a really, really good basketball team. Coach [Venard] Hendrix [Richard's father] does a great job. They've got a great player in Hendrix and several good players around him. That's what makes them the best team in our area."
Nesmith agreed that the Golden Eagles are anything but a one-man show.
"They've got some other good players, too," he said. "They had one little guard [Horton] who lit it up tonight. Hendrix really makes all the other guys around him better."
According to Hendrix, whose only obstacle to playing at the University of Alabama next season would seem to be the potential prospect of NBA money, the Golden Eagles (16-8) have only recently begun to hit their stride.
"Early in the season, we were highly-touted because of the success we had last year," the 6-foot-9 senior said. "Everybody expected a lot out of us. Some of the guys were a little timid when it came to stepping up to the challenge. But now, we're starting to gel and everybody is doing a great job filling their role. That's what it will take for us to be a championship-caliber team."
Hendrix (15 points) and Horton (12) combined to out-score Russellville 27-20 in the first half as Athens led by 17 at the break.
With Hendrix battling foul trouble in the second half, Horton stepped up, scoring 11 of his 15 second-half points in the fourth quarter.
Hendrix exhibited an impressive all-around game, displaying floor presence, passing ability and shooting range uncanny for a player his size. His three-pointer late in the first half gave Athens its largest lead of the game at 37-18.
When the Golden Tigers went man-to-man, the 6-foot-2 Nesmith often drew the responsibility of guarding Hendrix.
"That's a big kid right there," Nesmith said. "He's got a lot of muscle. I tried to use what muscle I've got from football to bang with him, but that's a big body to move around."
Nelson and Rodney Suggs each finished with 12 points for Russellville. Justin Thorne added eight, and Leon Hubbard had six.
Despite the loss, Seals was not entirely displeased after the game.
"I'm proud of our kids for fighting their way back into the game," he said. "I saw some things tonight that make me believe we're going to win our share of games the rest of the season."
The Golden Tigers travel to face area rival Hartselle tonight.
Girls
Athens 85 Russellville 76
Quinetta Phillips led Russellville with 25 points in Tuesday's loss.
Jordan Dollar added 18 points for the Lady Golden Tigers (6-7, 1-2 Class 5A, Area 16), and Meghan Quillen had 12. Lyndi Brown finished with nine, and Kala Trapp had eight.
Keona Shoulders had 21 points to lead Athens, which led 46-43 at halftime and 69-59 at the end of the third quarter.

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