Guard play is essential to winning basketball games.
Russell’s backcourt tandem of Lexi Berry and Shelby Huddleston is proving that to be true as the Lady Devils continue to put more W’s in the victory column this season.
Berry and Huddleston paced a balanced scoring attack as Russell defeated Raceland, 66-48, on Tuesday night at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.
“I can’t say enough about Lexi and Shelby,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “They were outstanding tonight.”
All five Russell starters were in double figures. Huddleston led the way with 17 points and six steals. Berry tallied 14 and five rebounds.
While the offense was clicking, Russell’s full-court defense suffocated Raceland into 28 turnovers.
“We were super aggressive tonight,” Layne said. ”We were getting steals and making our layups on the other end. All our guards were getting in the passing lanes and put good pressure on the ball. They made some things happen.”
Raceland coach Randy Vanderhoof agreed that the Lady Devils’ relentless pressure proved to be too much to overcome.
“Russell really turned up the heat on defense,” Vanderhoof said. “Some of the turnovers were unforced, but give Russell credit. They were very aggressive on defense tonight. Mandy really had her team ready to go.”
The Lady Rams shot out to an early 11-9 lead, but Russell followed with a 14-0 run over the next three minutes to take a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter.
Raceland, with the help of seven quick points from Lacee Penix and a long 3-pointer from 6-foot forward Krystal Keeton, fought back with a 18-3 run of its own to close the gap to 29-26 at intermission.
“We showed a little fight because it could have been over by halftime,” Vanderhoof said. “Our kids showed some character there. They had that run in the second half that we were unable to overcome.”
Russell’s 16-4 run to start the fourth put the game out of reach as the Lady Devils’ defense led to numerous steals and layups on the other end.
Maggie Jachimczuk contributed a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards for Russell. Hannah Carter also had 11 points and Leslie Harrison chipped in with 10.
Penix led the Lady Rams with 11 points. Keeton added 10.
Russell improved to 7-1 on the season, the best start in Layne’s tenure with the Lady Devils.
The fifth-year coach feels the key to their success is that her squad always thinks team first.
“Everyone understands their role,” Layne said. “Nobody is trying to do anything individually. Everybody is just trying to help us win.
“All the kids understand the expectations,” she added. “They have all been with me for five years and they are really playing well together.”
Raceland (4-3) will host the Ohio River Classic next weekend. The eight-team tournament is slated to begin on Thursday with the finals next Saturday. Russell is also competing in the event after it plays Fleming County at home tonight.
Guard play is essential to winning basketball games.
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VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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- VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights