Russell County's Josh Samuels put the Warriors out to an early lead with 13 first-half points and teammate Rodney Cooper scored 20 in the second half to finish the job as Russell County defeated Brookwood 64-52 on Wednesday night in an AHSAA Class 5A regional playoff game at Alabama State's Acadome.
The win sends Russell County into the state quarterfinals, where they will face Pleasant Grove at 7:20 p.m. Friday at Alabama State. Pleasant Grove defeated Sylacauga 65-49 in a game earlier Wednesday.
Russell County coach Sam Moates said he saw Pleasant Grove play for the first time Wednesday and expects a challenge Friday.
"We definitely have to come with our A game, there's no doubt about that," Moates said. "They looked incredible today."
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Moates said he will make some tweaks to the Russell County defense, but anticipates playing offensive with the same up-tempo style that carried the Warriors to this point.
On Wednesday, it was Samuels who had the initial spark in that Russell County attack. He scored nine first-quarter points and added four more in the second quarter as Russell County led 27-26 at halftime and finished with 18 points. Cooper said he expected Samuels to have a big game.
"I could tell he would have a big game because all week he had been focused during practice," Cooper said. "I knew he was going to have a good game."
It was Cooper who took over in the third quarter. A pair of back-to-back 3s allowed the Warriors to take the edge off of Brookwood and pull away with a 23-14 third quarter. By the end of the period, Cooper had scored 11 more points and Russell County led 50-40.
"The momentum had changed," Cooper said. "The third quarter is our quarter, and we needed to do something in the second half. That was our mindset."
Cooper added another nine points in the fourth quarter and Russell County was 8-for-10 shooting from the free-throw line in the final four minutes of the game as it held off Brookwood.
Wednesday's victory was just the latest high point for a group of Warriors seniors who had never reached the state playoffs let alone the quarterfinals before this season. And Cooper said they're not don yet.
"It feels good, but we know we've got to stay focused because we know we've got more work to do," Cooper said.
Wednesday at Alabama State
Brookwood 13 13 14 12 - 52
Russell Co. 15 12 23 14 - 64
Tavares Sledge 18, Jaylin Prewitt 10, William 9, Tingle 4, Dent 4, Scales 23, Ragland 2, Mills 2
Russell County (64)
Rodney Cooper 28, Josh Samuels 18, Demarkieyell Sims 15, Williams 3