By Evan Ream
Trailing an athletic Grant squad by six points at the half on Friday, the Davis High boy’s basketball team needed someone to step up.
In what is now becoming a regular occurrence, Hayden Russell provided that spark. The senior point guard scored the Blue Devils’ first seven points of the third quarter, keying a comeback that gave DHS an 80-76 home win.
Russell finished with a team-high 21 points to help the Devils (11-6) improve to 2-0 in Delta Valley Conference play.
“(Russell) is a takeover kind of guy,” Davis coach Dan Gonzalez told The Enterprise. “He wants to lead the team.”
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the red-hot Russell found a wide-open Brandon Strong, who drained a 3-pointer from the right wing that put his team up 68-61 and sent the crowd at the DHS gym into pandemonium. The Pacers (12-6, 1-1) were forced to call a timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding.
But Grant kept it close down to the wire, before eventually succumbing to the constant pressure of the Blue Devils’ full-court press and frequent substitutions.
It was a different story in the first half, as the Pacers, led by 6-foot-6 senior point guard De’Sean Parsons, started strong, quickly running out to a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish until halfway through the third quarter.
On this night, however, Grant was a one-trick pony. Parson poured in 35 points, but as he began to tire DHS seized the opportunity with good team play and incredible work on the offensive glass. The rebounding was key as the Devils got to the 80-shot plateau — a mark that the locals look to reach each time out — but were just 25-for-81 from the field, including just 6-of-32 from downtown.
“We had a lot of good shots early that we didn’t convert,” said Gonzalez. “I told my team at halftime that we were just one basket away (from taking control).”
With Davis struggling from the field, senior forward Kevin Sorensen kept his team in it with his best Dennis Rodman impersonation, securing 11 offensive rebounds and 16 total boards — to go with his 20 points — as the Blue Devils used their diligence on the boards to get 24 second-chance opportunities.
The last, and most important rebound for DHS came from an unlikely source, the 6-1 Russell.
With the game tied at 76-76, Russell grabbed a long carrom off of a Parsons’ free throw miss and went all the way down the court, beating two defenders for a reverse layup, drawing a foul as the ball tickled the twine.
Russell swished the ensuing free throw to ice the game with just 24 seconds left on the clock.
“We knew they’d be tired. They couldn’t run with us,” said an upbeat Russell after the game. “I couldn’t have done it without my team.”