Late run propels Golden Tigers past Hartselle in area semifinals
The Russellville varsity boys basketball team got a scare from Hartselle Friday night, but was able to hold on for a 59-57 victory in the Class 5A, Area 15 Tournament semifinals.
Both teams swapped the lead often, but the Golden Tigers finished the game on an 8-3 run to seal the victory.
"I'm glad to be moving on and happy to be playing Monday," said Russellville coach Michael Smith. "Hartselle came in here to play."
The Golden Tigers enjoyed an early lead, but four first-quarter-3-pointers by Hartselle gave the visiting Tigers a 19-18 lead after one period of play.
They added three more treys in the second to build a 36-31 advantage by halftime. Russellville only had one 3-pointer – by Terence Smith – in the first half.
The Russellville offense came out firing in the second half and went on an 11-2 run to gain the lead, but Hartselle fought back and led by two and the end of the third.
The Golden Tigers defense stiffened even more in the final period, allowing Hartselle only nine points.
Russellville reclaimed the lead for good when Smith scored to put the Golden Tigers ahead 55-54, but the final score was in doubt until the final buzzer sounded.
Darrian Graham added a free throw to extend the lead to two, but a Hartselle free throw pulled the Tigers back within one point.
Graham made another trip to the foul line and converted both shots, but again Hartselle did the same to keep the Russellville lead at 58-57.
Hartselle threatened to take the lead on a deep 3-pointer, but the ball fell short of the basket where Will Bostick grabbed the rebound and was ruled out of bounds with 26 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Tigers regained possession, but Smith eventually pulled down a rebound and was later fouled with eight seconds to play.
He sank one of the free throws and Hartselle was unable to get a good shot off before time expired.
The key to the win was a strong defensive effort in the second half led by Jermaine Bates. He finished the game with only nine points, but he pulled down eight defensive rebounds, blocked two shots and recorded a pair of steals for the Golden Tigers.
"For us to win with him only having nine points isn't going to happen often," Michael Smith said. "In the second half he started playing better defense."
Nate Dunstan and Smith led the scoring effort for the Golden Tigers with 16 points each while Graham added nine.
Also scoring for Russellville were Micah McCulloch (4), Mark Davis (3) and Bostick (2).
Hartselle girls 40,
The Russellville girls varsity basketball team's season ended in the Class 5A, Area 15 Tournament Monday after falling to Hartselle 40-34.
Despite scoring only two points in the second quarter, Russellville battled back to take a 28-27 lead into the final quarter.
Hartselle proved too strong in the final eight minutes, however and moved on to the area finals against host Athens.
Tasha West led the Lady Golden Tigers with 16 points while Erin Reynolds scored 15. Janarie Donley scored three points to round out the scoring for Russellville.