Benjamin Russell Basketball vs Dadeville

Benjamin Russell's Quez Thompson inbounds the ball during an AHSAA basketball game between the Benjamin Russell Wildcats and the Dadeville Tigers at Dadeville High School in Dadeville, Ala on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. [Alex City Outlook/ Jake Arthur]

A Dadeville basket to extend its lead prompted a desperate timeout from Benjamin Russell coach Jeremy Freeman.

The Wildcats were down 42-33 on the road in the third quarter after leading most of the first half, and a double-digit deficit could seal their fate if they weren’t careful.

“I talked to the team about some things, about how to deal with this,” Freeman said. “That if we’re not able to score after this timeout, it’s going to be a double-digit lead, it’s going to be really tough in this environment.”

And score after that timeout Benjamin Russell did.

Junior guard Corri Milliner found a wide-open shot in the corner to cut the lead down to six. The next possession, junior guard Quez Thompson buried his own open look on an out-of-bounds play.

Just like that, it was 42-39, and Benjamin Russell had all the momentum it needed.

“At the end of the quarter we were only down three, which was huge, because those were the only points we had had in that stretch,” Freeman said.

From there the Wildcats dominated, closing the contest on a 29-14 outburst including the two triples to secure a 62-56 win on the road Tuesday.

“The one thing that I was impressed with was our ability to withstand a run, and have the intestinal fortitude to finish the game, close it out at the end,” Freeman said.

Milliner collected 16 points and sophomore Chris Foster followed closely behind with 12, but it was Thompson’s 25 that stole the show.

That outburst came two games after a 26-point outpouring against Auburn Nov. 16.

“He has the ability to fill it up when he’s rolling,” Freeman said. “He does a great job of finishing at the rim, or he can pull up from 3-point range as well.”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing after Benjamin Russell grabbed its lead, however.

Some late-game turnovers and other lapses gave Freeman pause about his team’s victory. The Wildcats need to be stronger in late-game scenarios, he noted — they’re not just building to compete and win area titles, they want to win a state championship one day.

“We’re just trying to get them in all sorts of tough scenarios coming down the stretch to be able to make that run in the playoffs,” Freeman said. “Because when you get to the playoffs in those big arenas, you’ve got to have some intestinal fortitude to get you through those moments.”

Either way, a few more baskets from Benjamin Russell’s vaunted trio at guard ensured the Tigers couldn’t come all the way back.

Outside their performances, Freeman was impressed with the night that eighth grade forward CeDerian Morgan had.

“He had 12 rebounds, which were key for us,” Freeman said. “Being an eighth grader, I’m trying to gauge him and keep a pitch count on him, but last night he was really comfortable and he logged a lot of minutes.”

Benjamin Russell jumped out to a 24-15 lead after the first quarter and held a 33-32 edge at halftime before Dadeville made its 10-0 own run to go ahead in the third. That’s what setup the timeout and game-changing sequence from Milliner and Thompson.

The Wildcats now boast a 2-1 record on the young season after opening with three straight road contests. They return home for their next game against rival Opelika Nov. 30.

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