COAL GROVE —
Merle Kidwell thought Russell could execute its offense when it could get the ball across the timeline on Tuesday against Coal Grove.
The problem with that was, the Hornets’ full-court pressure harried Russell into 18 turnovers and 29.6-percent shooting from the field, handing the Red Devils a 61-43 setback at Dawson-Bryant High School.
Conor Markins led Coal Grove (11-6) and all scorers with 21 points. Brandon Adkins had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Ethan Raby paced Russell (5-17) with 21 points. Zach Tackett pitched in 12 points and 11 boards.
The Red Devils, who are without senior point guard Ramsey Mullins with what Kidwell said was a broken metatarsal in his foot, struggled mightily against Coal Grove’s press.
“Not having Ramsey was very tough on the guys,” Kidwell said. “We had to throw (guards) Heath (Hensley) and Jacob (McKee) into the fire, and they’re learning.”
Mullins also had the game-winning basket with two seconds to play in the teams’ first meeting, a 57-56 Red Devils win on Dec. 28.
“We didn’t feel like the first game that we played real solid on defense, and we tried to turn that up a little bit today,” Hornets coach Jay Lucas said. “The Mullins kid not playing hurt them for sure, I know that, but our kids played hard today. They hustled, they got to where they needed to be, and it was a good game.”
Coal Grove led by as many as 10 points in the first half and was up 38-29 after Adkins’ transition layup with 4:40 to go in the third quarter.
But Raby canned a 3-pointer in response, and the next time down, Russell got a stop and had a chance to cut its deficit to two possessions.
Tackett threw a lob for Caleb Martin on the left baseline behind the Hornets’ halfcourt zone defense, but it was too high and resulted in another turnover.
“We just didn’t execute it,” Kidwell said. “Very chancy to do that, but Caleb was open, had the back screen set and we just didn’t execute the pass, but that’s part of it.”
Coal Grove then got back to what put it in front — pressure — and proceeded to close the third quarter on a 14-2 run, capped by D.J. Miller’s trey at the horn, for a 52-34 lead after three quarters.
“It was just a simple run-and-jump (press), and we tend to dribble the ball a little bit too much,” Kidwell said. “It is what it is. We’re just not very good against pressure, and when we do get the ball up the floor, I thought we did some good things offensively.”
Russell is still working on getting senior Johnny McGuire into the flow of things after he missed most of the season due to injury.
“I know Johnny’s still struggling offensively,” Kidwell said. “(He) gives it to us defensively, but his conditioning, we really stressed to him we gotta get the ball taken to the rim instead of taking so many jump shots, and hopefully he can do that.”
No sooner did Russell get McGuire back than Mullins went down due to injury. Kidwell isn’t sure if he will be able to return this season or not.
The game was scheduled to be played at Russell, but because of its ongoing water woes, the game was moved to Coal Grove.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.