The Panthers used the disrespect they got early to fuel them as they powered their way to a District 13 title over cross town rivals Logan County.
“To go out as that being one of your last games, I don’t think we could have gone out on a better game to go out on,” RHS head coach Dennis Pardue said.
Early on in the year the Panthers knew they had something special brewing. Despite breaking in almost a brand new team the Panthers continued to forge ahead. Early on though the results was mixed game to game, and sometimes from quarter to quarter.
“When you look at an inexperienced team and a young team overall that’s kind of what you expect,” coach Pardue said.
Early on they played third region runner up Muhlenberg County and despite the loss they saw they had what it took to take on any team they came across. They went into First Southern Classic tournament and with a host of talented teams in the tournament it was there where they could either band together or fall apart as a team.
They banded together and took down an extremely talented Fern Creek team before falling to Bullitt Central in the title game.
“We went through a stretch during Christmas where I thought we played really well,” coach Pardue said.
Then came the ‘Clash of the Cats’ part one. The Cougars managed to take down the Panthers in the first game and then a loss to Greenwood and Russellville started scrambling between games for answers.
“After Christmas we went through a stretch of four weeks where we didn’t seem to get to that level,” coach Pardue said.
It hit rock bottom when they let the Rebels escape Jim Young Gymnasium with a district victory on Homecoming.
Follow that with a beat down handed out by Region 4 champion Bowling Green and the Panthers were limping into the District 13 tournament.
But the coaching and the leadership exhibited by the team and coaches righted the ship just in time. They took down a feisty Franklin-Simpson team in the opening round and squared off against Logan County for the district title.
“If you love high school basketball, you had to have loved that game,” coach Pardue said. “Yes they got us twice during the regular season, but we felt that just one or two simple things we could have done could change the outcome.”
The Panthers took down the mighty Cougars to secure their third district title under coach Pardue and then set them up against perennial powerhouse Warren Central in the first round of the Region 4 Tournament.
After having played the Dragons so close in the regular season it seemed that perhaps Russellville was peaking at the right time to finally knock Warren Central off instead of it being the other way around.
And with seniors Davis Pardue, Derion Calloway, Dominoique Harris looking for vengeance for all the years the Dragons had knocked them off, recipe seemed right for the Panther’s in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately it didn’t come to pass and the Panthers once again were shown the door by the Dragons.
Now as the book closes on coach Pardue’s era of Panther basketball a lot of questions surround Russellville basketball.
Who will take over? Will there be drastic changes in styles? Can he take the Panther’s to the next level?
But there is one question that doesn’t need to be answered.
The talent cupboard is stacked.
They lose the talents on the perimeters with Pardue, Calloway, and Harris graduating but they return Zach Hines, and Tacorian Darden. They also return Jordan Kennedy and Josh Hampton down low so the Panthers seemed poised to repeat as District 13 champions next season.
Whoever steps into the considerable void left by coach Pardue is stepping into a ready made situation to succeed immediately.