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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL SIMULATION SERIES

Dodd’s revenge or more of the same in 2007 vs. 1972 Russell battle?

RUSSELL, Ky. – Steve Dodd, the coach of Russell’s 2007 basketball team, was almost salivating at the idea of getting another crack at the 1972 Red Devils.

It has been nearly 50 years since Dodd was a member of the top-ranked Ashland Tomcats when Russell shocked them in the 16th Region championship game.

Dodd hasn’t forgotten the moment and never dreamed that he’d have the chance for revenge, even if it was as a coach in a simulation game.

But the opportunity has come: It will be two of the Red Devils’ best going at each other in a game that’s sure to be a thriller.

“That game haunts me and sticks in my crawl,” Dodd said of the Red Devils win over the Tomcats in 1972. “We could have won it all.”

Dodd had one more year with the Tomcats but they lost in the regional finals again in 1973 to Boyd County – the first regional championship for the Lions and only their second-ever win over Ashland.

“A lot of heartbreak,” Dodd said.

He made it back to the 16th Region as a coach of the Red Devils and was coming off a regional championship season in 2006 – the first for Russell since that 1972 season. So a matchup of this magnitude was dripping with irony.

“Irony, shimery, we just want to beat them,” Dodd said of the Red Devil showdown.

As expected, it was a tightly contested battle with eight lead changes and was tied nine different times. Defense was the name of the game with neither team able to even shoot 40 percent from the field.

Some stars emerged though. Rick Hensley scored 27 points with nine rebounds for 72 Russell and Jonathan VanHoose had 20 points and six rebounds for 07 Russell.

Those were almost expected. What wasn’t expected was how physical the game was played.

“We were hoping for a more wide open game because that’s how we liked to play,” said 72 Russell coach Marvin Meredith. “But we sure don’t mind playing defense. In fact, these guys trapped out of the 1-3-1 as well as any team I ever had.”

Russell’s 72 team also held a 37-32 rebounding advantage with Hensley and Jack Savage combing for 16 boards.

However, the 2007 Red Devils bounced out to the halftime lead after outscoring 72 Russell, 22-15, in the second quarter. Mark Thiery rolled an ankle and missed the rest of the game for the 72 Red Devils.

“We were kind of out of sync after that,” Meredith said. “It shook us a little bit in the second quarter.”

72 Russell fought back in the third quarter and the teams were tied at 53 going into the final eight minutes.

Hensley made a pair of free throws to put 72 Russell ahead 55-53 and Austin Blair drilled a 3-pointer to put 2007 Red Devils back in front 56-55 on the next possession.

The game remained tight until Hensley scored on a fastbreak and was fouled. He sank the free throw to complete the three-point play and give 72 Russell a 65-59 advantage with 4 ½ minutes to play.

“Big play from Jim Ward on the steal and long pass to Hensley for the fast break,” Meredith said. “That’s the 1-3-1 in action. The trap was perfectly set and led to a huge basket for us. If I smoked, I’d have lit up a victory cigar after that play. It took it out of them.”

True enough. The 2007 Red Devils never seemed to recover and drew no closer than four points the rest of the way. Hensley, meanwhile, scored 10 points in the last four minutes including four free throws. 72 Russell made 29 of 33 free throws.

“Two things that don’t last long are dogs who chase cars and teams that miss free throws,” Meredith said. “We made almost every one of them.”

Dodd was hard to console after yet another heartbreaking defeat against 1972 Russell.

“Disappointed with how we shot the ball,” he said. “Our defense wasn’t as good as it seemed considering how many times we put them on the foul line. That’s a good team but they’re my nightmare and I guess they’ll continue to be.”

For 2007 Russell, Scott Gill collected 11 points and seven rebounds and Austin Robinson scored 15.

Ward scored 17 and Savage 14 to complement Hensley’s game-high 27. Tony Elam had nine points and five assists for 72 Russell.

Real life

 2007 Russell had a 27-5 record and bowed out in the 16th Region semifinals. Leading scorer Jonathan VanHoose didn’t get to play in the postseason because of a knee injury. The Red Devils won the region with basically the same team the previous season.

1972 Russell stunned No. 1 Ashland in the 16th Region finals and finished 26-7 after an 89-87 loss to Elizabethtown in the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals. It was the last regional championship until 2006.

2007 RUSSELL (65) – Gill 4-11 2-2 11, Frazier 1-4, 0-0 3, Turnover 1-3 2-3 5, Robinson 4-9 7-12 15, Vanhoose 7-19 3-4 20, Blair 2-7 0-0 5, Harvey 1-1 1-2 4. FG: 20-55. FT: 17-25. 3FG: 8-21 (Gill 1-3, Frazier 1-3, Turner 1-2, Vanhoose 3-6, Blair 1-6, Harvey 1-1). Rebounds: 32 (Gill 7, Frazier 4, Turner 3, Ferguson 7, Vanhoose 6, Blair 3, Harvey 2). Assists: 8 (Gill 3, Robinson 1, Vanhoose 2, Blair 2). PF: 25. Turnovers: 14.

1972 RUSSELL (72) – Savage 3-6 7-7 14, Elam 3-9 3-5 9, Hensley 6-9 11-12 27, Ward 5-11 7-8 17, Thiery 1-6 0-0 2, Hillman 0-3 1-2 1, Branham 1-2 0-0 2, Sargent 0-0 0-0 0. FG: 19-46. FT: 29-33. 3FG: 5-10 (Savage 1-1, Elam 0-1, Hensley 4-5, Thiery 0-1, Hillman 0-1, Branham 0-1). Rebounds: 37 (Savage 7, Elam 3, Hensley 9, Ward 10, Thiery 4, Hillman 2, Branham 2). Assists: 10 (Savage 1, Elam 5, Hensley 1, Ward 1, Thiery 1, Hillman 1). PF: 20. Turnovers: 22.

2007 RUSSELL            17     22     14          12     –        65

1972 RUSSELL            20     15     18          19     –        72

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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