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


Zornes’ first and last regional champions fight to finish

SUMMIT, Ky. – It seemed fitting to match Boyd County’s first and last 16th Region championship teams under coach Roger Zornes.

The 1984 and 2000 Lions were both special to Boyd County’s coach who claimed seven regional titles in his tenure.

Instead of having to coach against himself, though, Zornes turned over the reins to the 1984 Lions to longtime assistants Phil Pratt and Bobby Sparks.

That would allow Roger Zornes to coach his son, Tyler, one more time and with good reason. His son was one of the most prolific scorers in region history and the top scorer in Boyd County history along with hitting one of the biggest game-winning shots in region tournament history with a 3-point bomb that defeated rival Ashland at the buzzer in 1999.

There was a lot of buzz around this game beyond Tyler Zornes though. Some of Boyd County’s greatest athletes were part of these teams in Caleb Stewart, Brad Taylor, Pete Fraley and Zach Fugeman.

“Seems right to have these teams play each other but I don’t like going against Brad Taylor,” coach Zornes said. “He won a lot of games for us in 1984 and the rest of that bunch is special to me because that was my first team that won the region. A great bunch.”

It shaped up to be a dandy and the crowd arrived early. Mike Tussey and Dicky Tiller were going to combine on the radio broadcast and the game was being televised on MyTown with closed circuit viewing in the Boyd County Middle School auditorium.

The game was expected to be a sellout. It was that and more a few minutes before tipoff as the teams went through a similar pregame.

“It’s what they know under coach Zornes and I didn’t see any reason to change it,” Pratt said. “I don’t know how this is going to go. Bobby and I are over our heads coaching against him.”

The game, of course, would be heavy on the defense with both teams trying to establish themselves as the Big Dog. Jim Moore knocked Tyler Borders hard to the floor on one rebound, grabbing the basketball and then throwing a hip into his opponent.

The referees were letting them play and both teams seemed to understand how it was going to be.

Borders was helped up after the knockdown and pointed at Moore, as if to say, “I’ll remember that.”

Meanwhile, the game was played tight until Zornes sparked a late surge that gave 2000 Boyd County the lead at 26-16 after scoring eight points.

It got much more defensive in the second quarter with baskets being hard to come by for both teams. The coaches were getting pure pleasure out of watching the teams go at it on defense. Nobody was safe with plenty of banging inside and outside.

The 2000 Lions maintained the 10-point lead at the half, 39-29, but the 84 Lions weren’t done. They rallied to within 54-50 going into the last eight minutes.

“I tell you what, both of these teams were gassed going into that fourth quarter because of how physical the game was being played,” Pratt said. “I’m glad the refs led them play, I’m just glad everybody kept their cool. These guys have a lot of respect for each other.”

The 3-point shot was working well for both teams with the 2000 Lions making 10 of 23 and the 84 Lions connecting on 9 of 20.

Before the game is over, the 3-point shot will play a more pivotal role.

Consecutive 3-pointers from Pete Fraley and Brad Taylor put the 1984 Lions in front 56-54 for the first time since the first quarter. The last six minutes of the fourth quarter would be a wild ride with the lead exchanging hands several times.

Two free throws from Bill Nipp took the lead to 61-57 for the 1984 Lions but Zornes and Fugeman combined for seven consecutive points and the 2000 Lions were back ahead 64-61 with only three minutes to play.

Moore’s steal-and-score made it 64-63 and Adam Young answered to stretch the lead to 66-63. But just went it looked like the 2000 Lions were ready to lock up the win, Jeff Lowe scored on a driving layup and some fullcourt pressure forced an errant pass.

With 29 seconds to play, Moore found himself open on the baseline and swished a 15-footer to put the 1984 Lions ahead 67-66. That four-point lead had disappeared in an instant.

“We had the game under control,” Coach Zornes said. “I knew those guy wouldn’t quit.”

And neither would the 2000 Lions. Zornes called a timeout to discuss strategy and everybody knew where it was going. The play was going to be designed for Tyler Zornes to shoot it.

“Oh yeah, we knew, too,” Pratt said. “We countered that as best we could.”

Stewart was the inbounder and Zornes came off a screen but Moore stepped into the passing line. Stewart, an outstanding baseball player later signed by the New York Mets organization, saw it too. He threw a laser to Borders, who had popped out behind the arc.

Borders gathered in the fastball and fired up the shot as the clock wound down. It was nothing but net and the 2000 Lions survived 69-67.

“Great shot from Borders,” coach Zornes said. “He was the second option on the play. We couldn’t shake Jimmy (Moore) but they made the mistake of not getting out on Tyler (Borders).”

Pratt said the defense was concentrating on taking an opportunity away from Tyler Zornes. “But the other Tyler got us,” he said. “It was a great game between some of Boyd County’s best players and an honor to coach these guys again. I know Roger feels the same way.”

Tyler Zornes scored 23, Stewart had 12 and Borders 11 for the 2000 Lions. Zornes made 5 of 11 from 3-point range.

Taylor’s 21 points led the 1984 Lions. Brian Vanhoose collected 12 points and six rebounds, Fraley scored a dozen with four assists and Nipp added 11 points. Moore had seven points and seven rebounds.

Real life

 Boyd County’s 2000 team finished 22-8 and won the last of Roger Zornes’ regional championships for the Lions in a brilliant coaching career. Boyd County droppeda  52-50 heartbreaker to Elizabethtown in the Sweet Sixteen.

Boyd County’s 1984 team was the first regional title for Zornes in his second year as head coach. The Lions were 23-7, defeating Ashland 60-58 in the regional final and then falling to Ballard 47-46 in the Sweet Sixteen opener.

2000 BOYD COUNTY (69) – Zornes 6-19 6-7 23, Rose 4-6 0-0 8, Borders 4-8 1-2 11, Young 3-3 1-3 7, Fugeman 0-1 3-4 3, Stewart 4-10 2-6 12, Lange 0-1 0-0 0, Chaney 1-2 0-0 3, Evans 1-2 0-0 2. FG: 23-52. FT: 13-22. 3FG: 10-23 (Zornes 5-11, Fugeman 0-1, Rose 0-1, Borders 2-5, Stewart 2-4, Chaney 1-1). Rebounds: 30 (Zornes 5, Fugeman 3, Rose 8, Borders 2, Young 4, Stewart 7, Chaney 1). Assists: 7 (Zornes 3, Fugeman 1, Stewart 3). PF: 21. Turnovers: 13.

1984 BOYD COUNTY (67) – Nipp 4-5 2-2 11, Fraley 3-10 3-5 12, Moore 3-4 1-4 7, Taylor 4-8 8-11 21, Vanhoose 5-6 2-2 12, Lowe 1-3 0-0 2, Todd 0-3 2-2 2, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Trimble 0-1 0-0 0. FG: 20-41. FT: 18-26. 3FG: 9-20 (Nipp 1-1, Fraley 3-9, Taylor 5-6, Vanhoose 0-1, Lowe 0-1, Todd 0-1, Trimble 0-1). Rebounds: 27 (Nipp 2, Fraley 1, Moore 7, Taylor 3, Vanhoose 6, Lowe 3, Todd 3, Trimble 2). Assists: 10 (Nipp 1, Fraley 5, Vanhoose 1, Todd 1, Trimble 2). PF: 22. Turnovers: 13.

2000 BOYD COUNTY  26      13      15           15      –         69

1984 BOYD COUNTY  16      13      21           17      –         67


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

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