Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 21, 2013

Russell on guard against Raceland

MATT SPARKS
CNHI News Service

RUSSELL — 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.