The Russellville Panthers were able to out-pass and out score the visiting Franklin-Simpson Wildcats on Friday night, 59-52, to remain unbeaten in District 13 play. Russellville’s 3-0 in District play puts them in clear first place in the district. Franklin’s loss gives the Wildcats a 1-1 district record.
The much-anticipated game featuring stars Pedro Bradshaw and Tavin Lovan provided many thrills to the near-capacity crowd of fans in Jim Young Gym.
Though the temptation to get caught up in the exciting moments following a Lovan dunk or aggressive rebound, Coach Phil Todd’s team seemed unmovable from the total-team strategy the Panthers needed to defeat the 12-2 Wildcats.
The Panthers led in every quarter, but the tension could be tasted as at any time it seemed the Wildcats and their star players could take over the game.
Coach Todd masterfully used his bench and players like Ricky Bellamy, Shon Keys and Paul Jones, to keep defensive pressure and fresh legs on the court.
Meanwhile, Panthers leaders like Pedro Bradshaw, Micha Naylor, and Jason Mitchell, put on a clinic of teamwork, passing and wise shot selection.
At halftime the Panthers led 25-23.
In the third quarter it seemed that some fine-tuning adjustments were made, and the Panthers outscored the Wildcats 16-6 and took the lead 41-29.
The final period was an exciting one. As time ticked on, the Wildcats began a strategy of setting up Lovan, he then drawing a double-team pair of Panthers and making a quick pass to an open teammate for a 3-point attempt. But, more often than not, the long shot missed and the Panthers’ fast break, led by the pair of defenders, made it to the Russellville end for a score—often via an outstanding pass and assist.
But the Wildcats continued to stay nervously close. With under a minute to go, another Lovan dunk brought the visitors to within three points. At 17 seconds remaining, Micah Naylor connected a pair of free throws to give the home team some elbow room and a 57-54 lead.
The Wildcats had two looks at a basket, but missed both attempts. With four seconds remaining, Pedro Bradshaw is fouled and goes to the line. The junior star would not have any trouble sinking both shots and securing a victory. Final score 59-52.
Bradshaw led Russellville in scoring with 18. Freshman, Jacob Naylor added 13 points. Jason Mitchell had eight points, Michal Naylor and Jaylyn McMurray had six points each. Ricky Bellamy and Paul Jones had two points each.
Next up for Russellville is a trip to Bowling Green to face the Purples on Saturday, Jan. 16.