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Southwestern survives furious comeback by Russell County

Jan. 8—After a shellacking at the hands of Lincoln County, the Southwestern Warriors returned to action at the Wig Wam on Monday evening. Offensive consistency was missing over the last few contests for Jeron Dunbar's squad, but a visit from the Russell County Lakers turned out to be the key to ignite the dormant machine that is the Warriors' shooting.

A blitz of offense over the second quarter gave way to a 15-point Southwestern lead and despite the Lakers making a insane comeback over the game's final moments, the Warriors had just enough of a lead to survive for the victory by a final score of 79-77.

Russell County junior Owen Loy opened up the game with a made basket to give the Lakers an early lead before Jarrett Simpson had four straight from down low to flip the lead to the Warriors. Simpson was far from done scoring in what ended up being a career night for the sophomore though. It was then time for Zach Hutchinson to score four straight as Southwestern took an 8-4 edge.

Neither team slowed down on offense in the period as there was little defense to be found. The teams traded shots, with sophomore Maddox Shearer scoring five straight to give the Lakers a 14-12 lead. It was Simpson once again scoring four more points to give Southwestern the lead again, a lead that the Warriors didn't relinquish for the remainder of the game. Simpson added four more before the end of the first, as Southwestern led 23-19 after one.

Back-to-back made three-pointers from Adam Marcum increased the lead to eight to begin the second quarter for the Warriors. In fact, a 11-4 spree to begin the period, with Kaden Campbell scoring his first basket of the night, gave Southwestern a 34-23 lead midway through the period.

Sophomore Noah McMillan scored the last points on a two-pointer for Russell County before the Warriors ended the half on an 8-0 spree, taking a 40-25 lead and all the momentum in the world into the break. Connor Hudson and Marcum both hit shots from deep, with who else but Simpson scoring the final points of the quarter, giving himself 19 points over the first 16 minutes of the contest.

Hutchinson scored the first four points of the third quarter as the Warriors increased their advantage to 46-25. Southwestern was the first team to 50 following a made shot from near the basket by Campbell. The offense for the Lakers came back to life in the third, although it seemed as soon as they were hitting their stride that Southwestern would answer right back.

Hunter Hamm hit another three-pointer for the Warriors that made the score 53-33. Despite trailing by so much, Russell County gave themselves a chance heading into the final quarter with a 10-3 run to close the third, making the score 62-47 in favor of the home team. Four different Lakers scored during this run for the visitors.

Danger started mounting for the Warriors in the early stages of the fourth quarter, as a 9-2 run by the Lakers brought their lead down to single digits at 64-56. Simpson and Hutchinson, as they had done all night, had an answer with five straight points to stretch the lead back out. Southwestern led 73-58 and it seemed like they had the win in the bag.

Or so they thought. Russell County began fouling to preserve what time they had left, but the Warriors were only managing to hit one out of the two free throws they had. That allowed the Lakers the chance, albeit small, to make the comeback. Threes from Shearer and McMillan brought the Southwestern lead down to just 76-72 with only about 30 seconds left on the clock.

After another made free throw by Hudson, Loy made a three fading away to trim the Lakers' deficit to just two points. Southwestern got lucky though, as the Lakers attempted to call a timeout when they didn't have any left, giving themselves a technical foul in the process. Hudson made another two free throws and with just four seconds left and with Southwestern sitting with a four point lead, Russell County just didn't have enough time left. Loy made a layup at the buzzer but the Warriors survived the close comeback attempt 79-77.

The Warriors were led by a game-high 27 points from Simpson, as well as 20 from Hutchinson and 14 from Hudson. Other scorers included Marcum with nine, Campbell with six and Hamm with three. Russell County was led by 18 from Shearer.

Southwestern improves to 8-8 and will play again on Friday as they will make the trip to "The Big House" to take on the Pulaski County Maroons. That game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com.