After having a double-digit lead against Pickerington Central get cut to three, the host Reynoldsburg girls basketball team patiently set up a play following a timeout and senior guard Imarianah Russell scored on a layup with 1 minute, 3 seconds left.
Russell, a West Virginia commit who averages 23.6 points, then made three of four free throws during the final 40 seconds as the Raiders held on for a 56-53 victory Jan. 13 in a matchup of state-ranked teams and defending Division I district champions.
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“We call a lot of plays out of timeouts and we usually don’t run them right, but we just look for each other,” said Russell, who finished with 29 points. “I don’t have a beef with Pick Central, but it always feels good to beat Pick Central.”
The third-ranked Raiders improved to 11-2 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, while the ninth-ranked Tigers dropped to 9-4 overall and 3-3 in the league.
Reynoldsburg also beat Central 67-51 on Nov. 30 but lost senior point guard Makiya Miller to a foot injury two games later. Miller is expected to return later this month.
In the rematch, Russell was a part of strong starts at the beginning of the first and third quarters.
She scored four points during a 10-0 run to start the game before the Tigers slowly sliced into the lead, eventually tying it at 19 with 2:10 to go in the first half.
The Raiders led 26-22 at halftime and opened the third quarter on an 11-1 run that featured seven points and a steal by Russell and five points from junior post player Sam Savoy.
Reynoldsburg increased a 44-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter to 51-42, but Central answered again, getting within 54-51 on a 3-pointer by Berry Wallace with 18.7 seconds left.
“They’re a really good basketball team and I give them credit,” Raiders coach Jack Purtell said. “Their kids are better than the first time we played. They’re long and I thought they did a really good job of taking some things away from us.”
Olivia Cooper had 16 points and Madison Greene and Wallace each scored 14 for the Tigers.
“They started the game 10-0 and then they came out in the third quarter and we had a couple turnovers,” Central coach Chris Wallace said. “When we got them in the half-court and didn’t make our own mistakes and hurt ourselves, I thought we did all right. We grew tonight.”
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Ohio girls basketball: Reynoldsburg edges Pickerington Central 56-53