When his team needed him the most, Brett Ruckel was more than happy to oblige.
The senior scored 40 points, including some key free throws down the stretch, to help Lewis County outlast a gritty Greenup County team, 77-69, in overtime Friday night at the Greenhouse.
Ruckel finished 24-of-28 from the free-throw line in a contest that featured 39 fouls between the two teams. The Lions attempted 39 from the charity stripe, connecting on 35.
Lewis County coach Joe Hampton knows who to call on in late-game situations.
“Brett was outstanding tonight,” Hampton said. “He put us on his back at one point and would refuse to let his team lose.
“He let the game come to him tonight and that’s what good players do.”
Not to be outdone, Jair Jackson showed off his athletic ability with a few rim-rattling dunks to finish with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“We worked over the summer with him doing individual skill work,” Greenup County coach Harold Tackett said of his junior. “He is beginning to understand how athletic and skilled he is. He is one of the top five players in the region.”
After a stagnant first half, Tackett offered some “encouragement” to his team at halftime.
“I felt we didn't play very strong in the first half,” Tackett said. “At halftime, we peeled a little paint off the wall. In the first half we just wanted to shoot jumpers and not do anything else.”
His team got the message and cut a double-digit intermission deficit to just two after three quarters, outscoring the Lions 17-7 during the period.
The score was tied on four occasions in the fourth quarter as Lewis County clung to a slim lead. After Ruckel hit a free throw to give the Lions a two-point lead, freshman guard Jherrell Jackson took the ball the length of the court and hit the layup as time expired.
Jackson contributed 20 points and six boards.
In the first half, Ruckel's supporting cast helped the Lions shoot out to an early lead.
Sammy Holder had 10 points, all in the first half. Daulton Mason was also in double figures with 10, including five points during a 11-2 run at the end of the half to give Lewis County a 35-23 halftime edge.
Sophomore Trenton Walker calmly drained a 3-pointer from the wing to jump start the Lions in the extra frame.
“In the first half, we had many players step up and score,” Hampton said. “They all did a good job.
“Walker came out in the overtime shot it with confidence,” he added. “It's the first three he has shot all year.”
Hampton was pleased with how his team responded to get a big early-season district win when the Musketeers made a late-game push.
“I thought we responded well,” Hampton said. “We knew we had our work cut out for us. They made a run but fortunately we did answer when it got tight.
LEWIS CO. 15 20 7 22 13 — 77
GREENUP CO. 12 11 17 24 5 — 69
Lewis County (77) — Adams 2, Ruckel 40, Holder 10, Weddington 2, Kiebler, Duncan 3, Walker 8, Mason 10, Parker 2 3-PT Made: 8(Ruckel 2, Holder 2, Duncan, Walker, Mason 2) FT: 35-39 PF: 14 Fouled out: Adams Turnovers: 7
Greenup County (69) — Jh. Jackson 20, Dillion 6, Ja. Jackson 26, Johnson 3, Quillen, Hughes 8, Wireman 6, Grooms 3-PT Made: 4(Jh. Jackson, Hughes, Wireman 2) FT: 13-22 PF: 25 Fouled out: Dillion, Ja. Jackson Turnovers: 14