For The Independent
When tracking down a record, it isn’t uncommon for athletes to succumb to the pressure of the moment.
But in Kyle Skaggs’ bid to become Russell High School’s all-time leading scorer, the senior never seemed affected, as he scored a staggering 94 points in just three games to pass the school’s previous high point mark set by Jon Van Hoose.
Saturday night was the first time Skaggs took the court at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium since the accomplishment, and for the first time all season he showed he is in fact human.
The normally sweet-shooting two-guard could never find his range against Fairview, shooting just 5 of 16, after being recognized just before tipoff. The rest of the Red Devils picked up their senior scorer.
Led by 14 points from Steven Estep and Jacob Porter’s 12, Russell was able to hold off the Eagles’ second-half comeback attempt and improve to 5-1 on the season with a 65-57 win.
“We are more than just Kyle Skaggs,” Russell coach Merle Kidwell said. “A lot of people in the preseason didn’t know how good we would be. They thought we would be just centered around one player, but I knew we had Johnny (McGuire), Steven, and Lance (Evans) who were going to be good post players too.”
Estep did his best impression of Skaggs to start the second half, scoring seven straight points at one juncture, capped off by a long 3-pointer.
“Steven was huge tonight,” Kidwell said.
Russell jumped out to an early 18-4 margin after one quarter, but Fairview regrouped in the second eight minutes and kept within striking distance going into halftime, trailing 33-22.
“I felt like we had just a little bit of a game hangover from the Raceland game (Friday night),” Fairview coach Derek Cooksey said. “We knew it would be tough tonight. We just came out flat and didn’t set the tone.”
The Eagles (2-1) were able to get back into the game largely due to some full-court defense, which helped lead to easy transition baskets.
After trailing by 19 at the end of three quarters, Fairview was able to close the gap to as few as eight in the final period. The Eagles had four straight possessions to close the gap further, but were unable to take advantage.
Russell aided in the rally by struggling from the free-throw line — in the last minute the Red Devils were just 2 of 8 from the charity stripe.
“We didn’t close it out because we didn’t make free throws,” Kidwell said. “We are going to put the ball in Googie’s (Hayes’) hands at the end of the game, and he just has to make his free throws. He knows that. He went 5 for 10 and that has to improve.”
As for Skaggs, most of his struggles came from behind the arc, where he was just 2 of 11, but despite the poor shooting effort he did manage a game-high 21 points.
What do you say to your school’s all-time leading scorer on an off night? In short, nothing, according to Kidwell.
“I very rarely say anything to Kyle,” he said. “There have been a few times where I will say take it to the basket and try and get fouled. He just has such a high basketball IQ, he figures it out.”
Andrew Carroll led Fairview in scoring with 18 points, while Isaiah King added 16.