Senior guards Kyle Skaggs and Jacob Porter brought their A-game to the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic on Thursday afternoon.
The duo combined for 52 points — 33 from Skaggs and 19 from Porter — as Russell staved off a late Butler County rally to win 69-68 in the opening round at Frankfort Convention Center. The Red Devils move on to the quarterfinal round, in which they face Bishop Brossart at 6:30 tonight.
Russell (18-6) opened up a 10-point lead in the first half and a 13-point advantage in the second, but never could quite slam the door shut on Butler County.
The Bears, of the 3rd Region, used a huge rebounding edge (42-27) and 23 points off the bench from Zach Burden to keep close.
“If we’re going to advance down here, we’re going to have to rebound the ball better,” said Russell coach Merle Kidwell. “We gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the first half.”
The Red Devils did most of their offensive damage in transition, where Kidwell thought his team had an advantage heading into the contest.
Russell hit six 3-pointers in 14 attempts, including a 4-of-8 mark by Skaggs. He was 10 for 20 from the field and 9 of 12 from the foul line.
“If he’s not All-State I don’t know what All-State is,” Kidwell said.
Porter was 6 of 7 from the floor.
Point guard Googie Hayes struggled from the free-throw line, going 4 for 10, but he made two key foul shots in the fourth quarter to help Russell maintain a steady, but shrinking, cushion. He also tallied seven assists.
Butler County (14-10) actually outscored the Red Devils, 24-14, in the fourth quarter. Zeke Woodcock splashed in a 3-pointer as time expired to make it 69-68. Woodcock had 14 points. Elijah Flener chipped in 11.
Kidwell said the game was much more physical than most games Russell has taken part in this season.
Bishop Brossart (18-3) will also be physical.
“They’re very big, very disciplined,” Kidwell said of the 10th Region representative. “It’s a challenge, but I think our schedule’s prepared us for this.”
The game marked Russell’s first appearance in the tournament.