Strong defense and the scoring of Xavier Griffith was plenty good enough to give East Limestone a 57-46 win Tuesday over Russellville, which sent the Indians to the Class 5A Northwest Regional tournament for the second consecutive year.
It wasn't always pretty, as Russellville took away the scoring threat of Austin Harvell by double-teaming him and making sure he didn't get looks at the basket.
But Griffith was there to pick up the slack, scoring 24 points, with 16 of those coming in the second half as East pulled away for the 11-point win.
“We had to grind it out,” East Limestone coach Fred Steger said. “We had some mistakes on both ends of the floor and couldn't find our rhythm on the offensive end. We had to make some adjustments, but the players worked real hard and we were able to get the win. All the games are going to be tough this time of year, so you've always got to be ready to play your best basketball.”
East Limestone led 13-11 after one quarter and expanded the lead to 28-21 at halftime. East held Russellville to just nine points in the third quarter in expanding the lead to double digits, then held the Tigers at bay in the fourth to take the win.
Harvell scored just five points, but Griffith's 24 points and R.J. Duncan's 14 points were enough for the Indians.
“They did a good job on Austin being physical and making sure he didn't get any good looks at the basket,” Steger said. “Xavier was able to come up with good plays and R.J. came up with some big shots throughout the game. A lot of teams are keying on Austin, making sure they double or triple-team him or deny him the ball. That limits his touches, but he's been doing a good job of being a decoy, and that's where Xavier and others are stepping up and making some big baskets.”
While Russellville took Harvell out of the game offensively, the Indians did the same to Russellville standout Chandler Dyas.
Dyas did have 14 points, but nine of those were three 3-pointers in the first half. He had just one field goal in the second half to go along with three free throws. Levi Gist led the Tigers with 16 points.
“We did a good job of staying close to him, coming off screens staying on his hip,” Steger said. “We made him work real hard for his points.”
East Limestone will play Fairfield 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals of the Northwest Regional at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville.