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PREP BASKETBALL: Social Circle grinds out tough win over Union County to stay perfect in region
Tyrhell Branch
Redskins sophomore guard Tyrhell Branch led his team in scoring as he finished with 18 points in a crucial region victory over the Union County Panthers. Photo by Michael Pope.

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. - The Social Circle Redskins kept their perfect run of play in the region, going with a 45-40 win over the visiting Union County Panthers in a game that came down to the final quarter of play. 

With the scoreboard knotted at 30-all entering the final quarter of play, the Redskins and Panthers knew the game would come down to how they performed in the final eight minutes. 

The Panthers had to be feeling good as the majority of their points had come in the third quarter. However, the Redskins would prevail and crack the Panthers' defense, which gave them trouble in the second half. 

It was the trio of the Redskins sophomore guards that ultimately cracked through the Panthers defense in the fourth quarter and helped outscore the opposition 15-10 to close out the game. 

The Panthers did take an early 34-30 fourth-quarter lead, but sophomore Amarion Russell quickly helped erase that deficit and get his team moving in the right direction. 

He put up five points of his own to give the Redskins and a 35-34 advantage, and they would not give up the lead from that point until the final buzzer sounded. 

Also getting involved late was sophomores Tyrhell Branch and K.J. Reid, who like Russell also scored five fourth-quarter points. Branch and Reid also accounted for much of the Redskins scoring on the night, with Branch leading the way with 18 points and Reid finishing up with 12 points. 

Redskins head coach Taylor Jackson was very pleased with how those sophomore guards played, especially with the outstanding performances of Branch and Reid. 

"They have been everything we have needed them to be, and they are young and continuing to grow in those roles," Jackson said. "K.J. (Reid) was all-region last year and no such thing as a sophomore slump for him as he continues to be more dependable and reliable on both ends of the court. Tyrhell (Branch) has been better than I had hoped. He has stepped in and been our leading scorer for the most part.  I'm just really proud of how they're growing as basketball players, and they're just great teammates too."

The Redskins seemed to be in full control during the early stages of the ballgame as they walked into the halftime break up 26-15. Jackson made it known that he could not be more ecstatic with his team's first-half play.

"I was absolutely pleased. I mean, I loved it. That's what it is supposed to look like," Jackson said. "We were really tough, patient, we hit timely shots and great defensively. We gave up 15 first-half points, I mean I couldn't ask for a better start to the game."

Coming out of halftime, the Panthers changed their defensive scheme to a 1-3-1 zone in the second half and held the Redskins to just 4 points while scoring 15 in the third quarter of play. Jackson knew changes needed to be made if his team wanted to walk away with an untarnished region record. 

"It's part of being young, so we kept trying to throw lobs and slow passes, and they were huge they had two guys that were six-five, six-six," Jackson said. "So I just told them 'you're faster, so you can slow around their slow bigs,' and we did a really good job of that in the fourth."

With such a young team, Jackson tries to emphasize maturity to his young players as he hopes they can continue this great early run of play.

"This is a really new team, and we lost three seniors, and we're starting four sophomores and a freshman," Jackson said. "We really try to emphasize being mature enough to finish down the stretch. I chalk up that third quarter to some youthfulness. Saturday, we even lost, but today they were able to really dig down deep and finish, and today is what region tournament games and state tournament games are going to look like, and that's the type of games we want to play in."

The Redskins will look to build off this win in their next game on Friday, Dec. 20, against the Stone Mountain Pirates, who they defeated to start the season 49-33.