Marv’s kind of game: Russell champs battle in exhaustive OT shootout

RUSSELL, Ky. – Nobody liked a good old-fashioned shootout more than Marvin Meredith. He used to say that fans would rather watch their team lose 90-80 than win 50-40.

So his coaching calling card at Russell High School had offense circled and underlined.

“The object of the game is to put the ball in the basket,” Meredith said. “That’s why they come to watch us.”

Meredith surely would have liked this simulation battle between his last two 16th Region champions – the 1968 Red Devils and the 1972 Red Devils. Both teams were built to score and boy did they ever to the very end of this fantasy finish that, true to Meredith’s words, had fans standing on their feet in the Russell gym during a heart-stopping overtime.

The teams were tied at 87 when the regulation horn sounded. Here are some highlights before the final score is revealed toward the bottom of the report.

–Tookie Helton, the speedy guard for the 68 Red Devils, had 38 points and seven assists. He kind of liked the 3-point line, too, making 7 of 17.

–Rick Hensley, the high-scoring guard for the 72 Red Devils, came close to matching him with 26 points after stroking 5-of-11 from behind the arc.

–Both teams put five players in double figures.

–After trailing 43-41 at halftime, the 72 Red Devils caught fire in the third quarter by scoring a whopping 32 points.

–The game was tied nine times and there were nine lead changes. The similarities were striking and it was showing on the scoreboard. The 68 Red Devils once led by 15 points and the 72 Red Devils held a lead of as much as 13 points.

–It was a tribute to Marv’s penchant for offense that 6-foot-8 Tom Roberts, who collected 20 points and seven rebounds, drilled 3-of-5 from behind the arc. The 3-pointer was mostly new for Meredith – and these teams – but he was just as happy to get three points as two points on any shot.

“I wish we’d had that shot when Mickey (Sydenstricker) was playing,” he said. “I wish I always had that shot when I was coaching because it just meant more points. And my boys could always shoot.”

Of course, since it was a fantasy game, Marv had the view from both benches. His timeout messages were to keep the offense going. Both teams were doing their best on defense in the famed 1-3-1 but both sides knew the weaknesses, too, and the exploited it at every turn

Advantage offense.

“That’s the way I like it,” Meredith said with a grin.

The biggest lead for 72 Russell came at 69-56 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. It looked like trouble for 68 Russell, which fell behind a minute into the second half and had to play catchup from there.

A three-point play the old-fashioned way from Roberts made it 69-59 and seemed to give the 68 Devils some life. However, they trailed 77-66 before going on a 10-0 run to pull within 77-76 with four minutes remaining.

The 72 Devils stayed together though, pushing the margin to 85-78 and then led 87-81 with only 50 seconds to play. Helton came down the floor and stopped from about 23 feet away and swished a 3-pointer to make it 87-84. An errant pass trying to throw over a press sent the ball out of bounds. Roberts missed a 3-pointer from the corner but the long rebound came right to Helton standing behind the arc. He never hesitated. Swish! Just like that the game was tied at 87.

Lanny Miller put the 68 Red Devils ahead 89-87 in overtime and Mark Thiery tied it with a 15-footer. Helton buried another 3-pointer for a 92-89 advantage and the 68 Red Devils never trailed again. They actually made it a mini-rout, building a 15-point lead at 107-92. It was quite an offensive turnaround with a final score of 107-96 after the 68 Red Devils outscored the 72 Red Devils, 20-9, in the overtime. One guy was smiling at the outcome.

“I know one of my teams won and the other one lost,” Meredith said. “But just look at that scoreboard and don’t the fans leaving look happy?”

It was a point well taken.

1968 RUSSELL (107) – Helton 12-26 7-10 38, Miller 3-8 4-5 11, Roberts 8-12 1-2 20, Hollan 1-6 0-0 2, Conley 2-3 1-1 5, Vanover 5-7 3-5 13, Fosson 2-4 1-1 5, McCain 4-4 2-2 10, Faulkner 1-2 0-0 2. FG: 38-72. FT: 19-26. 3FG: 12-33 (Helton 7-17, Miller 1-5, Roberts 3-5, Hollan 1-6). Rebounds: 36 (Roberts 11, Miller 3, Hillman 3, Conley 2, Vanover 11, Fosson 2, Faulkner 4). Assists: 18 (Roberts 2, Miller 3, Helton 7, Hillman 2, Fosson 1, Mcown 2, Faulkner 1). PF: 23. Turnovers: 13.

1972 RUSSELL (96) – Thiery 4-9 2-3 10, Elam 4-8 3-3 13, Hensley 7-17 7-7 26, Hillman 2-5 3-6 7, Savage 6-12 2-5 14, Branham 4-7 1-2 9, Ward 4-11 5-5 13, Kidd 0-1 0-0 0, Sargent 2-3 0-0 4. FG: 33-73. FT: 23-31. 3FGs: 7-23 (Thiery 0-3, Elam 2-4, Hensley 5-11, Ward 0-4, Kidd 0-1). Rebounds: 38 (Thiery 3, Elam 3, Hensley 6, Hillman 7, Savage 11, Branham 5, Ward 1, Kidd 1, Sargent 1). Assists: 18 (Thiery 3, Elam 6, Hensley 5, Hillman 1, Ward 2, Branham 1). PF: 25. Turnovers: 17.

1968 RUSSELL    19         24         23       21       20    –            107

1972 RUSSELL    20         21         32        13       9      –            96


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