Mighty Mickey and 57 Red Devils try to measure up with 68 Red Devils

RUSSELL, Ky. – Russell’s 1957 basketball team had the top gun in its battle with the 1968 Red Devils, who displayed the kind of balance that made them champions.

Mickey Syndenstricker was hard to stop, collecting 30 points and 11 rebounds, but the 57 Red Devils never led – not even for one possession – in a 77-70 loss to the 68 Red Devils.

Coach Marvin Meredith had the pleasure of sitting at midcourt and directing both teams. He said it was a hoot watching his Red Devil teams try to fight through his devastating 1-3-1 defenses that won him so many games.

“They knew what was going to happen and still fell into the traps,” he said, grinning. “It was great watching Mickey again. That boy could score from anywhere against anybody.”

But he also loved the balance of the 68 team that won the 16th Region championship. Tom Roberts, a 6-8 center, was dynamite inside with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Tookie Helton had 14 points and nine assists and Roger Vanover also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Lanny Miller was the fourth in double figures with 13 points.

“Those guys were so fun to watch and they ran that 1-3-1 better than anybody,” Meredith said.

Even though the 68 Red Devils led the entire way, they never could completely shake the 57 team. The biggest lead was 13 points. The game got extremely tight and was tied at 44 midway through the third quarter after Syndenstricker scored five consecutive points. It was tied again at 46 and 48.

“What a ballgame and I had the best seat in the house,” Meredith said.

Sydenstricker pulled 57 Russell within 68-64 with four minutes to play but they would get no closer.

“We never could put together a run like we needed,” Syndenstricker said. “Those guys were good inside. Roberts was a horse and Vanover was a bull. It was very physical. I tried to hold my own.”

Russell 57 also had four in double figures led by Syndenstricker, who connected on 11-of-21 attempts and made the team’s only two 3-pointers. They were 2-for-15 from behind the arc.

“I told those guys not to fall in love with that shot,” Meredith said. “Mickey hit a couple but two robins don’t make spring.”

His other team, however, made 8-for-19 from 3-point range led by Helton, who hit 3 of 7 triples.

Neither team was too rattled by the 1-3-1 but the 57 Red Devils made only 12 of 20 free throws compared to 17 of 22 by the 68 Red Devils.

“I was proud of both these teams and I loved all these boys,” Meredith said. “Like I told both of them later though, ‘A hundred million Chinese didn’t even know we played tonight.’ So don’t get too high over the win or too low over the loss.”

Real life

Russell’s 1957 team finished the season 28-5 and fell to Clark County in the regional finals. Syndenstricker, in his only season with the Red Devils, scored 885 points and averaged 27.7 per game. He scored 46 against McKell and 41 against Ashland in the district tournament.

Russell’s 1968 team finished 25-6 and defeated Ashland in the regional finals. They bowed out against Clark County, which had moved to the 10th Region, in the opening round of the Sweet 16 in Louisville.

1957 RUSSELL (70) – R.McKenzie 2-8 0-0 4, Gallion 6-7 1-3 13, L.McKenzie 3-10 4-4 10, Williams 3-7 0-1 6, Syndenstricker 11-21 6-10 30, Short 0-1 0-0 0, Howes 1-1 0-0 2, Willis 1-3 0-0 2, McSurley 1-3 1-2 3. FG: 28-61. FT: 12-20. 3FG: 2-15 (R.McKenzie 0-1, Gallion 0-1, L.McKenzie 0-4, Williams 0-1, Syndenstricker 2-7, McSurley 0-1). Rebounds: 32 (R.Meknzie 1, Gallion 2, L.McKenzie 5, Williams 6, Syndenstricker 13, Howes 3, Willis 1, McSurley 1). Assists: 12 (L.McKenzie 5, Gallion 1, R.McKenzie 3, Sydenstricker 1, Short 1, Willis 1). PF: 22. Turnovers: 8.

1968 RUSSELL (77) – Miller 2-4 7-8 13, McCain 3-5 0-0 7, Helton 4-9 3-3 14, Vanover 5-9 4-4 16, Roberts 7-13 3-6 17, Conley 2-5 0-1 4, Hollan 0-2 0-0 4, Fosson 2-2 0-0 4, Faulkner 1-1 0-0 2. FG: 26-50. FT: 17-22. 3FG: 8-19 (Miller 2-3, McCain 1-2, Helton 3-7, Vanover 2-6, Hollan 0-1). Rebounds: 34 (Miller 3, McCain 2, Helton 3, Vanover 11, Roberts 12, Fosson 2, Faulkner 1). Assists: 17 (Miller 2, Helton 9, Vanover 2, Hollan 2, Fosson 1, Faulkner 1). PF: 17. Turnovers: 17.

1957 RUSSELL           12        22        19          17        –           70

1968 RUSSELL           19        25        15          18        –           77









By Mark Maynard

Managing editor of Kentucky Today, the digital newspaper of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, since July 2017. Worked 42 years for The Daily Independent in Ashland, Kentucky, the last 12 as managing editor and editor and the previous 30 before that in the sports department, including 17 years as sports editor. I have been in the business since 1975 with more than 75 writing awards from the Kentucky Press Association. I have also have written eight books, used to run fast but now look more like I have a piano on my back. President of Amy For Africa, a faith-based Christian ministry serving Uganda. I'm a husband to Beth and father to Stephen and Sally, grandfather to Brooks and human to Opie!

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