RHS teams take on visiting F-S in district tonight
By Jim Turner

Posted on February 26, 2024 1:18 PM


Host Russellville takes on good Franklin-Simpson teams to open 13th District Tournament tonight. The Lady Panthers face one of the state’s best teams, the Lady Kats, at 6 p.m., followed by the Panthers and the Wildcats.

See ticket and entrance details in the accompanying graphic.

It’s been a difficult season for the Lady Panthers, who return only one starter from a highly experienced and talented team a year ago. That returnee is sophomore point guard Ja’eda Poindexter.

Coach Orlando Hayden was expecting to have a formidable inside-outside combination between Poindexter and junior post player LaReesha Cawthorn, who averaged 17.5 points and 13.1 rebounds for the district champion/regional semifinalist Lady Panthers last year. She, instead, transferred to Franklin-Simpson this year where she has made a strong bid for all-state honors. (See her stats below.)

The current Lady Cougars have a 2-22 record. A bright spot for them is that their offense has improved dramatically late in the season. They have averaged 35.5 points per game in their final six games of the regular season after averaging only 24.6 in their first 21 outings.

Fortunately, Russellville returns several outstanding players from their softball team, and many of them have come on to play key roles for the basketball team. In addition to Poindexter, they include six-year softball starter Crissy Higgins, who leads the team in scoring at 8.1 points per game, and the dependable Chloe Penrod. Poindexter is averaging 7.4 points and late addition to the lineup Mariyah Merriweather is coming in at 6.8. Higgins has hit 29 three-pointers, Madison Kimbrough 13 and Penrod 12.

Higgins is hitting 73.8 percent of her free throws (31 of 42) with Marie Mason canning 12 of 19 for 63.2 percent. Rayleigh Roberts is the only other Lady Panther hitting over half of her free throws at 14 of 27. M’Riyah Boyd is averaging 5.8 rebounds per game with Higgins pulling down 139 boards for 5.1, Penrod 86, Kimbrough 62, Mason 60, Aubreigh Cross 45, Poindexter 41, and Roberts 40.

The Lady Kats of Franklin are having a season to remember. Coach Ashley Taylor’s team is 24-1 on the season with the only loss to Boyd County in the state championship game of the Class 2A Tournament. Their closest district game has been a 67-40 win over Todd Central.

One organization has named Cawthorn Fourth Region Player of the Year. She is scoring 17.5 points an outing, identical to last year at RHS, and 9.7 rebounds

 Kiole Smith is scoring 10.3 points, and three other Lady Kats are averaging 6.3 points are better. Lyniah Brown is hitting 56.6 percent (11 of 196) with Smith and Cawthorn around 50 percent. Jasmin Savage is hitting 43.5 percent of her three-point shots (60 of 138). Katelyn McAlister has hit 27 treys and Naja Nolan 22. Cawthorn is averaging 9.7 rebounds with Smith pulling down 5,4 boards, Lyniah Brown 3.9 and Vanessa Ray 3.2.

It's been a strange year for the Russellville Panthers. They’ve only won 5 of 30 games, but they’ve been competitive in most of their losses, including nine single-digit setbacks. Injuries to some key players, most notably Too Two McKeage and Noah Stovall, played a big role in that. They were impressive in a fairly easy win over this same Todd Central team late in the season.

The Panthers’ only senior, Eli McMurry, has been very dependable for Coach Phil Todd’s team. He’s averaged 15 points per game and 4.9 rebounds. He leads the team in free throws hit (55) and three-pointers made (39) while playing in all but one game.

Freshman Jamarion Gardner has put together an excellent season. He’s played in all 30 games, averaging 7.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. He has hit 68 percent of his free throw attempts and 21 three-pointers. Sophomore Jerius Coleman has also played in every game. He’s first in free throws made and free throw percent (72 of 99 for 72.7 percent), third in scoring at 8 points an outing, fourth in field goals made with 66, third in three-pointers with 35, and tied with Kein Gray and Gardner with 92 rebounds each.

An outstanding all-around athlete, McKeage is first in scoring average at 15.5, first in field goal percentage (154 of 335 for 46 percent), first in three-pointers made with 39, second in free throws made with 41, and first in rebounds (165) and rebounding average (6.5) among the regulars.

The Franklin-Simpson Wildcats are 14-12 overall and 6-0 in the district. They are the seventh-rated team of 17 in the region. Their regular season wins over Russellville had scores of 77-53 and 68-55.

Five players are averaging 7.9 points or higher for Coach Dee Spencer’s Wildcats. They are O.J. Gamble, Gavin Dickerson, Jakai Partinger, Kamryn Ray and Mathias Dickerson. Brody McAlister is shooting better that 50 percent, and another five are over 40 percent from the field. Both Dickersons and Partinger are capable long-range shooters. Gamble has hit 88 free throws and Ray 75. Gavin Dickerson and Gamble are the top rebounders at 4.3 each.

Tuesday night, it will be Logan County vs. Todd Central in both games. The girls final will be Thursday at 7 and the boys championship game will be Friday at 7, all at Jim Young Gymnasium.

WRUS will carry every game involving a Russellville or Logan County team throughout the postseason with Will Mkenzie and Lucas Celsor calling RHS games, and Zack Woodall and Ben Brown wearing the headsets for Logan’s games.


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