February 21st, 2011

Russ Leads Toppers To Title Game

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Russ Leads Toppers To Title Game
photo by Chris Jung

Senior scores 27 points as Presentation downs Shawnee

When Presentation Academy showed up to Central High School's gymnasium on Monday night to take on Shawnee in the 23rd District Tournament semifinals, they fully expected to find six-foot-three sophomore Tearra Banks waiting on them.

Banks, who has emerged as one of the state's most dominant forces in girls high school basketball this season, has consistently put up 20-plus figures in scoring and rebounding during the season. But due to an undisclosed, team-related incident, Banks did not suit up on Monday and wasn't even on the bench for the Eagles.

Taking advantage of that void in the middle was Toppers senior Rachel Russ, who found herself open around the basket on many occasions throughout the contest and scored a game-high 27 points to lead Presentation over Shawnee 75-38. The win automatically advances Pres into the Region 6 Tournament and puts Head Coach David Jackon's team into the District 23 Championship game on Thursday against the winner of Brown and Central.

"We were hoping to get a lead to where we wouldn't have to play a whole lot in the second half," said Jackson. "We weren't quite as focused early. It took us a few minutes to settle in, but then we played really well, especially toward the end of the first half."

As for the absence of Shawnee's Banks, Jackson says his team's approach was no different than it would have been.

"We noticed she wasn't in the box scores the last couple games and we didn't know why, but we expected her to play. We came in prepared for her," said Jackson. "But we didn't change anything. We were still going to come out and press and wear them down a little bit. It would have been a little tougher if she was on the floor because she scores 20 (points) and 20 (rebounds) every night."

After Shawnee scored to open the game, Presentation clamped down, forced ten, first-quarter turnovers and recovered quickly by scoring 15 consecutive points. And at the 1:37 mark, when freshman Hannah Stevens laid in the Toppers' fourth, wide open layup of the opening period, Pres owned a 19-4 lead in this mutually-aggressive matchup.

There were 14 total fouls called behind both teams in the first quarter alone.

In the second quarter, a layup by sophomore Peyton Andres put Presentation ahead 32-9 with 4:12 to go until halftime. Less than two minutes later, after Shawnee's Derckicia Cooper picked up her second personal foul, she was issued a technical for slamming the ball. The Toppers took advantage, as Russ made 3-of-4 free throws and junior Shelby Adams scored after Presentation kept possession of the ball, putting the Toppers ahead 41-15.

Presentation's leading scorer, junior Bailey Reeder, scored all 13 of her points in the game during the first half, but was equally effective in distributing the ball and grabbing long rebounds off Shawnee's missed field goal attempts.

By halftime, Pres had built a 47-18 lead and was rolling in the district semifinal.

The Toppers continued to pour it on in the third period, and after Russ scored her 13th point of the quarter on a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the period, Presentation took its first, 30-point lead of the game at 65-25.

Russ, the lone Topper senior, played confidently all night and scored 27 points in just three quarters of play, as Jackson elected to sit his starters for the entire fourth quarter.

"(Russ) played really well," said Jackson. "She ran the floor and got to the right spots. And when you run the floor, Bailey and Petyon (Andres) got her the ball and she got some layups. Good things happen when you're around the rim."

Russ and Reeder combined for 40 of Pres' 75 points. Andres finished with eight points and six rebounds. Ashlee Kirchner had seven points in the game, including Presentation's only two 3-pointers of the game. Adams led the Toppers in rebounding.

Pres (12-12) got its 75th and final point of the game on a jumper by freshman Hannah Brown with 17 seconds to go, sealing a convincing win for Presentation, which was the team's fourth in its past six games overall.

And despite the automatic berth into the regional tourney by simply reaching the district title game, Jackson and the Toppers are not satisfied with just a district runner-up trophy. They want to win the whole thing.

"It's very important to get the win," said Jackson. "The way the region stacks up, you really want to get a win. Not that there are any gimme's anymore. Plus, this is the last time the district's going to look like this, so it means a lot to us to come out Thursday and play well and get the win. Being a district champ is huge."

The Toppers will take on the Brown-Central winner (who play on Tuesday) in the 23rd District Championship on Thursday at 8pm back at Central. Presentation lost to the tournament host-Yellowjackets 50-46 on Dec. 7 and has not played Brown this season.


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