By ELDEN MAY
For The Independent
One day after after surviving a Butler County rally fueled by second-chance points and rebounding, Russell found itself in the same predicament against Bishop Brossart.
This time, the Red Devils were unable to corral the taller Mustang tandem of Alex Trentman and Drew Burns, who combined for 17 points and nine rebounds in the second half and lifted Brossart to a 62-46 victory in the quarterfinals of the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Russell (19-5) took its final lead of the contest on Googie Hayes' driving layup with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter. Brossart's switching defense then took control as the Mustangs outscored the Red Devils 30-12 the rest of the way.
Over the last 11 and a half minutes Russell was forced into settling for jump shots and connected on four of its final 12 attempts (33 percent). Meanwhile, Brossart hit 10 of its final 16 (63 percent), many from close range or putbacks. If Burns, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the opening half, kept Brossart in the contest early, then Trentman shouldered much of the load late. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 10 points during the decisive rally, including a dunk off a missed shot with 2:04 remaining that gave Brossart a 58-46 lead.
“Drew carried us for a while but the mark of a good team is you have enough balance where, if they take one thing away, you have another thing to exploit. Take it away and you can exploit something else,” said Brossart coach Mike Code. “I thought the last three quarters we were effective. We got away from our fundamentals early but once we took away their penetration we were OK.”
Early on, Russell followed the same script from the previous day as it hit seven of its first nine shots from the field and built an 18-7 first quarter lead. Kyle Skaggs did much of the damage, scoring 10 of his game-high 21 points in the quarter.
“We came out and played as good a quarter of basketball as we have played all season,” said Russell coach Merle Kidwell. “(Point guard) Googie (Hayes) really got us going. They couldn't guard him. But the Burns kid, we couldn't handle him in the post. We have two guys in the post who have not played much until this season so they are still learning. I thought our effort was off the charts but they really shut us down defensively when they went to their switching defense. When we had to press they got some layups in the fourth quarter. I certainly didn't think it looked like a 16-point game.”
Following its opening spurt, nothing came easy for Russell. Skaggs, often the focal point of opposing defenses this season, found himself the subject of Brossart's defensive switches after the opening quarter. After scoring 33 on Thursday against Butler County, Skaggs finished with 21 on 7-of-20 shooting.
“Skaggs is hard to guard. I thought our guys did a good job of making him take hard shots,” said Code. “He got 10 in the first quarter and then he got, what, 10 the rest of the game?”
Brossart advances to today's semifinals for the first time since winning the event in 2007. It will face Bardstown.
For Russell, the experience of playing in the statewide tournament is something Kidwell hopes will help the team reach its ultimate goal — playing in the State Tournament at Rupp Arena in March.
“It is such a great experience to play on a statewide stage. We hope this is a prelude to our main goal of being in the Sweet Sixteen,” said Kidwell. “We finish the season with Fleming County and Ashland on Senior Night so that should be a good barometer of where we stand. We would have liked to win (the tournament) but we are 19-5. Like I told the guys, when we are focused we can play with anybody.”