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GOSHEN — There was no macho chest bumping. No yapping. No arm marked with tattoos.
Just results. Lots of results.
Jacob Russell simply reached down and helped someone up. Of course, just a few seconds earlier, the poor soul had been trying to keep the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Russell from scoring last Thursday night.
Unsuccessfully, of course.
Russell powered, twisted, bulled, shot mid-range jumpers and did about anything else he pleased in leading Anderson County to a hard-fought 51-48 win at North Oldham last Tuesday night.
There was no need for the fist pumping or any other showmanship. The scoreboard told the ultimate story and the scorebook told why.
“Jacob was a man among boys,” Anderson coach Glen Drury said.
It was an understatement.
Russell scored 27 points, hitting on 12-of-21 field goal attempts, and effectively shut down North Oldham’s 6-foot-7 center, Devan Rowan, in the second half. Anderson had shown no reasonable answer to Rowan in the first 16 minutes, when he scored 10 points and ruled the backboards.
Over the final 13 minutes, the sophomore, who led North was 16 points, was a non-factor. He was shut out after his rebound gave the Mustangs their final lead at 32-31 with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter.
Russell matched Rowan’s physicality. “We had not put Jacob on him to start the game because we didn’t want to risk him getting into foul trouble,” Drury said.
It was especially important on a night when Anderson’s second-leading scorer, Will Ruggles, sat at the end of the Anderson bench the entire game. Ruggles, a four-year starter like Russell, was unable to go due to a stomach virus. Anderson obviously missed his heady ball-handling, slick passing and ability to score and rebound.
But Drury also noted, “We had some kids that really stepped up.”
One of them, senior Tyler Hyatt, responded to North Oldham’s final lead with a pair of 3-pointers in 32 seconds to make it 37-32 and North was never closer than three points the rest of the way. Hyatt’s second bomb came from well beyond the arc and sent the handful of Anderson supporters into a frenzy.
Hyatt also drilled a fourth-quarter bomb that pushed Anderson’s lead to 46-39, equaling its largest cushion of the evening.
It was typical of the Bearcats rising to the occasion, whether in scoring points or playing their trademark lockdown defense. It was Russell muscling and jockeying with Rowan underneath or Allen Warford putting the clamps on North Oldham star Alex Foley, who finished with just eight points.
“Coach told us to not let him get square and shoot,” Warford said. “We wanted him to drive.”
Foley was just 2-of-10 from the field and had only one 3-pointer. “Allen’s defense from the second quarter on was tremendous,” Drury said. “Int the first quarter, he was not realy into it and I took him out but after he went back in, he was tremendous. Foley is the kind of player that can go for 25 (points) any night.”
The Bearcats also got a nice outing from sophomore guard Ethan Kelly, who scored just four points but demonstrated exceptional court savvy in Ruggles’ absence.
While Anderson was in front from early in the second quarter, the Bearcats were not without their moments. North Oldham stayed within striking distance, mainly behind the play of Max Steinfeld, who scored 13 points, six coming in the first half of the final quarter. Steinfeld sank four straight free throws to pull North within 46-43, but the Mustangs could not convert an Anderson turnover.
With 1:25 to go, Russell twisted his way for a spectacular basket but on the ensuing possession, Warford stripped Foley before Russell came up with the loose ball.
The Bearcats had a chance to put things away at the foul line, but hit just one of four charity tosses and missed the front end of the bonus twice. Fortunately for Anderson, North Oldham was unable to convert again.
After Russell missed at the line with 10.4 seconds to play and the Bearcats leading 49-45, North Oldham curiously called timeout, even though it appeared the Mustangs had the numbers in the transition game. Anderson’s Grant Cox picked off the inbounds pass at mid-court, then sank two free throws to make it 51-45 and clinch the victory with 5.9 seconds to go.
“That was a big play by Grant,” Drury said. “We needed a defensive stop there.”
Just as Anderson needed the win over a team much better than its 6-10 record. North has played what Drury calls “the toughest schedule in the region.”
Yet Warford noted, “We have played a tough schedule too.”
And Tuesday, it showed.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.