RUSSELLVILLE — Mars Hill’s Mike Mitchell finally saw the kind of shooting he wanted from his team Friday night.
The Panthers (4-1), who hadn’t necessarily impressed their coach in that department in their first four games, sank 6 of 8 first-half 3-pointers while opening up a 17-point halftime lead and had five scorers finish in double digits in an 81-54 win against Russellville in the first round of the TimesDaily Classic boys high school basketball tournament.
Mars Hill plays Muscle Shoals, which had a first-round bye, in the second round today at 7:30 p.m. at Russellville. The Panthers put the Trojans out in last year’s tournament during a semifinals run.
The Golden Tigers (2-4) will host Shoals Christian in a consolation game at 4:30 p.m.
“In our first four games, we’ve played hard, but we hadn’t been shooting the ball well,” Mitchell said. “So it was kind of good to see us come out and start the game with good movement, finding open people and knocking down open shots.”
Mars Hill got back-to-back 3-pointers by Harrison Chastain and Thomas Swinea in the first 1:32 of the game and jumped out to a 16-5 lead.
Russellville trailed by as few as four in the closing seconds of the first quarter
but didn’t come within single digits the rest of the way.
Landon Willis scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first half for Mars Hill and combined with Mark McWilliams (12 points) in a front-court performance to complement the Panthers’ sharp perimeter shooting.
Chastain added 17 points, while Swinea and Joe Wilson added 12 apiece.
Mars Hill led by as many as 18 late in the second quarter before taking a 46-29 lead into halftime.
Jackson Smith led Russellville with 18 points, including four first-half 3-pointers.
The Golden Tigers made 5 of 9 from 3-point range in the first-half and finished 8-of-16 from beyond the arc. But the easier shots proved more challenging for Russellville, which shot 13-of-33 from 2-point range and made 5 of 17 free throws.
“They were shooting well and we weren’t,” Russellville coach Michael Smith said. “It was like night and day. We were missing layups and free throws, and they were making 3-pointers like layups. Once you get down 18 or 20 to a team like theirs, its tough to come back.”
Leslie Dunstan added 14 points for Russellville, and Caleb Robinson had 12.
n Sheffield 78, Shoals Christian 56: Shaq Carroll reached his scoring average by halftime and poured in a season-high 38 points in all, leading Sheffield to a tournament-opening win.
The Bulldogs (3-1) will play Deshler, which had a first-round bye, in the second round today at 6 p.m. Sheffield edged Deshler 65-64 on Tuesday.
“They were getting to me, so I just took it,” Carroll said. “ Out coach tells us to rebound and get down the court. We were able to do that.
“I’ve gotten better at posting down low. I did a lot of work in the weight room during the offseason and got a lot stronger.”
Sheffield opened on an 11-4 run against Shoals Christian, led by as many as 24 with 2:11 left in the first half and took a 50-33 lead into halftime.
Carroll had 20 points by that time. Fellow post player Simon Ridgeway scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half for the Bulldogs.
“We tried to get the ball inside to our post players,” Sheffield coach Ski Anderson said. “They’ve done a good job for us so far this year. Hopefully, we can keep them going in the right direction.
“Later in the game, we started settling for quick shots and kind of let our intensity level drop. We’ve got to keep that up.”
Anderson lost a front-court talent in Jerwan Thompson from last year’s Notrthwest Regional tournament team. The Bulldogs also without D.J. Sanders, who tore an ACL playing football, for the time being, but have an experienced core with Carroll, Ridgeway, Eric Yarbrough and Hunter Danley.
Daniel Wood turned in 17 of his team-high 22 points before halftime for Shoals Christian.
The Flame used a 15-5 run to pull within 50-36 in the first 1:29 of the second half but got no closer, finishing 20-of-58 shooting from the field, including 9-of-32 in the second half.
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or email@example.com. Follow @bappster on Twitter.