Senior Ramsey Mullins calmly sank four free throws in the closing seconds Friday night to give Russell its first boys basketball win of the season.
With the Red Devils trailing Fairview 49-48, Mullins was fouled driving to the basket with 6.8 seconds remaining and swished both attempts to put Russell in front.
A Fairview turnover in the backcourt gave the ball back to the Red Devils with 2.4 seconds on the clock. Mullins returned to the foul line and appeared cool again while sinking two more for a 52-49 victory.
“Ramsey is so competitive,” Russell coach Merle Kidwell said. “He’s done a good job controlling his emotions. He wants to win so bad.”
Mullins paved the way with 23 points and the Red Devils overcame a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter to get into the win column after dropping their first four games.
Said Kidwell: “I told the kids before we came on the bus, you guys are working too hard for something good not to happen, whether we win tonight or not. We played our guts out again. It was good to see them get a reward.”
On a night when both teams struggled mightily from 3-point range, Russell junior Silas Cox splashed two big ones down the stretch.
The first shot bounced high off the rim and fell back through to put the Devils up 45-44 with just over two minutes left. After Fairview scored the next four points, Cox tied it at 48 with 1:13 to go. This time, he connected from the wing and turned to yell to a roaring Russell student section.
Fairview edged back in front as Ryan Jones made one of two free throws with 16 seconds on the clock. After a timeout, Russell put the ball in Mullins’ hands and set a screen to create some room for him to drive.
“Ramsey did a nice job drawing the foul and made the free throws,” Kidwell said.
Fairview coach Derek Cooksey called the contest a learning experience for his team, which was playing its second game so far.
“Coming in, we knew what to expect from Russell,” Cooksey said. “We thought we would see multiple defenses from coach Kidwell. They switched it up and did a great job.”
Fairview (1-1) made 11 turnovers in the first half while falling behind 24-17.
“When we needed to push the ball in transition we didn’t, and when we needed to slow it down we didn’t,” Cooksey said.
The Eagles found an offensive rhythm to start the second half, however, outscoring Russell 17-8 for a 34-32 lead heading into the final period. Isaiah King scored seven of his 11 points in the third quarter, most of them coming on driving baskets.
King’s steal and layup pushed Fairview’s lead to 42-37 midway through the fourth quarter, but Russell answered by scoring the next five points. Cox started it with two free throws and finished the night with 13 points.
Russell was 2-for-18 from behind the 3-point arc before Cox came through twice at crunch time. Meanwhile, Fairview shot 1-for-15 on 3-point attempts.
Alex Roy, a 6-4 sophomore, gave the Eagles a huge boost in only his second varsity start. Roy grabbed 17 rebounds to go with his 13 points.
“He’s a good kid who has worked his tail off,” Cooksey said.
Andrew Carroll scored 12 points for Fairview.
Russell prevailed despite losing starter Zach Tackett to an injury in the first half.
“Zach was averaging 12 or 13 points,” Kidwell said. “When he went down it really depleted us, but our guys kept working.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.