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Russell Ends Lions’ 10-Year Win Streak

Every streak has to end at some point. The Halifax County Middle School girls basketball team sustained its first regular-season loss in 10 seasons here Monday night as undefeated Russell Middle School tripped up the Lions 48-31.

Monday night’s loss throws the Lions (5-1 overall) into a donnybrook as far as the regular-season Southside Middle School Conference championship is concerned.

The only way that the Lions can now win the regular-season conference title is to win the rest of their remaining conference games. That will include winning a rematch against Russell on Russell’s home floor in the final game of the regular season.

“That is going to be a tough task,” admitted Lions coach James Smith.

“It can still be done. I told the girls that a couple of losses during the regular season won’t keep them from winning the championship. We’re probably going to see Russell two more times.”

Russell Middle School’s stifling defense shut down two of the Lions’ key players, Alexia Tucker and Janiyah Logan. The pair had averaged scoring in double digits through the team’s early season games. Monday night, they scored a combined six points.

“That was big,” Smith said.

“Neither one was able to get on track.”

Smith credited Russell Middle School for making it a tough night.

“ They have better athletes,” Smith said of Russell Middle School.

“They are the better basketball team, but we played them hard.”

The Lions did, indeed give Russell Middle School a tussle, especially through the first two and a half quarters. During that time, neither team led by more than four points.

Midway through the third quarter, the roof literally fell in on the Lions.

Russell Middle School hit a quick spurt midway through the third quarter to score six unanswered points, four points of which resulted from backcourt steals.

The Lions got two free throws from Whitney White and a free throw from Logan, her only point of the game, to cut Russell’s edge to two points at 23-21 with 1:17 left in the third quarter.

Halifax appeared to be in much better shape at that juncture. Then came another run by Russell Middle School.

The visitors hit a pair of easy baskets in the paint and another off of an offensive rebound to take a 29-21 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Russell Middle School’s run continued well into the fourth quarter with 13 unanswered to start the final stanza. By the time the Lions could snap the Russell Middle School run, the visitors were up 42-21. With just 3:23 left in the game at that point, the Lions were hopelessly behind.

“We were right there with them,” Smith pointed out.

“Then, we threw the ball away five consecutive times and they made lay-ups. It went from a three-point game to a 13-point game in about a minute and a half. It was all over after that. We should have been no more than five points down going into the fourth quarter.”
White and reserve Nyjah Torain, who came into the game in the fourth quarter, led the Lions in the scoring column with six points each.

Tucker and Brittani Boxley chipped in five points each.

While Monday night’s loss was disappointing, Smith remained confident that his team will give Russell Middle School a run for the championship before the season is over.

“We’re young and they (Russell) have virtually all eighth-graders,” Smith noted.

“They (Russell) have basically the same team we met in the conference tournament championship game last year. I think at the end of the year we will give them a much better game than we did here. I think we will be able to give them a real game by tournament time.”

The Lions will be back in action tonight when they travel to Park View Middle School in South Hill for another Southside Middle School Conference encounter. Game time is 5:45 p.m.