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WARSAW – C.J. Penny and Jacob Russell made sure there was no repeat of last March.
Anderson County’s dynamic duo combined for 43 points and made big play after big play down the stretch as the Bearcats whipped host Gallatin County 66-50 Monday night.
Penny scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while Russell had a triple-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Anderson to a bit of revenge on the team that eliminated the Bearcats from the Eighth Region Tournament last year.
Anderson blistered the nets, shooting better than 73 percent with 24 of their 30 field goals coming as the result of an assist.
“I think it is just a good win right now,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury. “It was a good win but not great. It was the first game we have had everyone.”
Anderson had built a 35-23 win early in the third quarter when junior point guard Will Ruggles went to the bench with his third foul. Gallatin sliced the lead to two points on two occasions, the last at 43-41 with 1:20 to play in the third frame.
The Bearcats, now 3-0, exploded with an 8-0 run spanning the quarter break with Penny or Russell having a part in every basket. Penny scored once, had three assists and a steal in the run while Russell powered his way for a pair of baskets and another assist.
“Penny is by far the best player in the region and Russell is rock-solid,” said Gallatin coach Jon Jones.
Drury noted that the Anderson bench wore Gallatin down in the final nine minutes. “Our depth really bothered them,” he said. “We had some big plays from a lot of people.”
Jones added, “We missed a shot, had four turnovers and missed a free throw right then.”
Anderson’s lead grew to as many as 19 points on two occasions in the final two minutues.
While Will Ruggles scored just two points for the Bearcats, it was apparent just how much he meant to the team Monday.
Ruggles went to the bench with his third foul with the Bearcats up 35-23. When he returned, Gallatin had cut it to 41-39.
“I didn’t think Will had a big game but we can’t seem to play without him,” Drury said.
Anderson put the clamps on Gallatin star Trent Maddox, who took just eight shots and tallied 11 points. Zac Jones led the Wildcats with 22 points.
Landon Jenkins gave Anderson the lead for good when he swished a 3-pointer with 90 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The lead continued to grow until Gallatin made its third quarter push.
Penny seemed motivated by going against Maddox, considered the top threat to Penny’s position as the top player in the Eighth Region. “C.J. had a great game,” Drury said. “That was the best defense he has ever played.”
“It was a good win and our defense was better but it is still a long way from what we want,” Drury said.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.