‘Cats try to ground Eagles: Familiar foe awaits in area tournamentPublished 4:30pm Friday, February 8, 2013
By Ed Bailey
The Benjamin Russell Wildcats may be 9-14 on the year, but they’ve closed the season like a team poised to make a run toward the Class 4A, Area 5 championship.
The Wildcats have won three of their last four contests, with those victories coming over Class 3A, Area 5 top seed Central-Coosa, and ranked teams Dadeville and Childersburg.
Next for the Wildcats is a meeting with the Booker T. Washington Golden Eagles to determine one of the slots for the area title game.
The teams have played twice this year, with Benjamin Russell winning the first meeting on Dec. 18. The Wildcats overwhelmed the Golden Eagles in the second half, pulling away to a 58-47 lead.
The second meeting was much closer, but the ‘Cats got the short end of a double-overtime 66-62 decision.
Benjamin Russell head basketball coach Jeff Hines said continuing to play improved team defense and cashing in on open looks would be the keys to a victory over Booker T. Washington.
“We’re going to have to defend every possession,” Hines said. “Whether that’s in the full court or in the half court, we have to defend. We’re definitely going to have to execute our offense. We’ve worked very hard on what (BTW) does defensively. If we can execute, I think we’ll get some good, point-blank range looks, and if that’s the case, we’ve got to finish.”
Hines said the Eagles’ athleticism could pose a challenge, adding that he expects a tight game versus BTW. He said that the Wildcats’ experience in tight contest could be an advantage.
“We’ll definitely have to be on our A-game to be successful, and right now you have to be on your A-game from here on out,” Hines said. “We’ve played five overtime games this year, so if it’s close, I like our chances and if it goes to overtime, I really like our chances.”
Hines said the Wildcats are peaking at the right time thanks to a new wrinkle in the offense as well as increased comfort in the scheme.
“The team has gotten comfortable in what we’re doing,” he said. “They’ve bought in. The seniors have done a good job of leading.”
That new wrinkle is Tyrik Norris serving as the primary ballhandler for Benjamin Russell.
Hines said this allows for guard Ronnie Stacy to play to another one of his strengths.
“The adjustment there was to take some of the pressure off Ronnie as far as handling the basketball,” Hines said. “We think it gives us an advantage because he penetrates so well,and if we’re able to move the ball offensively, the defense is going to open up, which creates those penetrating lanes. We’ve put him in a situation where he can do a lot of great things for us. Over the course of the last four or five games, he’s done a really good job of executing for us, making good plays and making good passes.”
Hines said the team will play with confidence and will need smarts and toughness to win.
“We’re not a great offensive team,” he said. “However, we’ve played much better over the last four or five games. We’re going to have to defend and rebound. We’re going to have to take care of the ball as well.”