Lee rallies from 12-point deficit to beat RHS, end Golden Tigers season
For the second straight year a team from Huntsville ended Russellville's hopes for a state title in boys basketball as Lee knocked off the Golden Tigers 68-66 in the sub-region round of the playoffs.
Russellville had a sizable lead in the first half, but long-range shooting and strong defense helped Lee erase the deficit.
"That was my biggest fear that they would get hot," said Russellville coach Michael Smith. "They got hot and hit some threes late in the third quarter."
Russellville built a 9-point lead in the first quarter but Lee shaved the lead to six points by the start of the second. The Golden Tigers responded by outscoring Lee 20-14 in the second to take a 38-26 lead into halftime.
Momentum shifted in Lee's favor in the third quarter as the Generals hit five 3-pointers on their way to outscoring Russellville 29-16 to take a one-point lead into the final period.
Smith credited Lee's defense and rebounding for the second-half turn around.
"It was hard to run our offense with their trap. We couldn't really get in a rhythm," Smith said. "In the first half, we did a good job keeping them off the boards. In the second half when they did miss, they got offensive rebounds."
Lee extended its lead early in the fourth quarter, but free throws by Terence Smith and Nate Dunstan tied the game 58-58.
The Generals quickly regained the lead, scoring five consecutive points, but Russellville answered with a 3-pointer from Mark Davis and a pair of free throws from Terence Smith.
Lee hit a free throw to retake the lead, but Dunstan scored to reclaim the lead with less than a minute to play.
Lee hit four free throws down the stretch to pull away. During that stretch, Russellville had a turnover on an inbounds play and missed a close shot.
Smith added a free throw with two seconds to play to cut the deficit to two points, but missed the second and Lee grabbed the rebound to seal the win.
Smith led the Golden Tigers with 16 points while Dunstan scored 14 and Jermaine Bates added 13.
Micah McCulloch and Will Bostick scored nine points each for Russellville while Davis added three and Darrian Graham scored two.
"I've got to hand it to Lee," Smith said. "They weren't going to be denied."