When Benjamin Russell jumped out to a 6-0 lead against Talladega, it seemed it might be a long night for the Tigers. But that was hardly the case. The team came back to regain the lead at 10-8 and the never let go of the lead. By the end of the first quarter, they had built their lead into a 20-11 advantage.
Talladega was able to take a commanding lead of 30-13 at one point, although Benjamin Russell narrowed the gap to 42-31 by halftime.
The third quarter was Benjamin Russell’s best chance to reclaim the lead and they drive within a point at 44-43, but the Tigers were able to go on a 10-0 run to leave the score at 54-43 by the end of the third quarter.
Talladega dominated the fourth quarter as well. They had a 19-point advantage at 70-51, but allowed the Wildcats to score the last six points in the game as the final was 70-57.
“I thought our defensive intensity for most of the game was probably one of our best games of the year,” head coach Chuck Miller said. “We kept up the defense. We had one dry spell in the third quarter, but we moved the ball. We’ve got a balanced team, so we’re going to share the ball. The people that’s open have to hit down some shots.”
The Tigers spread the ball around well throughout the game. Five of the nine players finished with nine points or more. Deaireus Truss led the way with 12 points, followed by Ahmad Gooden with 11, and D’Angelo Scales and Justin Kelly each had 10 points. Damion Hawkins chipped in nine points.
Scales led the defensive effort with six steals, while Trey Riggins was second with three steals. Riggins helped spark the offense by leading the team in assists with four.
“Tonight, I thought it was just our team defense,” Miller said. “We tried to play a man pressure, then we did some trapping pressure and I believe the whole nine players, all of them, did a great job on defense.”
Gooden led the Tigers in rebounding with eight total rebounds, although the team faced a height mismatch and was outrebounded overall.
“They were so big,” Miller said of Benjamin Russell. “I knew we’d get hurt on the backboard a little bit, but we had to get them running a little bit.”
For Benjamin Russell, Javoskie McNeal was the game’s overall top scorer with 17 points, while Lagarious Varner was second on the team in scoring with 10 points. Both players were two to three inches taller than Talladega’s tallest player, Tyler Haynes ,who stands at 6-foot-3 according to official team rosters.
Miller was pleased with his team’s performance overall, but said he is still looking to improve, in particular in two areas.
“We’ve got to get better at free throw shooting as a team,” Miller said. “We still had mental mistakes in certain parts of the game. If we start improving on those two areas, we’ll be a pretty good ball club.”