Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 18, 2013

All "A" Classic: Russell on the climb

Red Devils seniors notch first major tournament win

Kyle Hobstetter
The Independent

RACELAND — In his long career as a Red Devil, Kyle Skaggs has never cut down the nets. On Thursday, he finally got his chance.

Skaggs scored 26 points to lead Russell past Elliott County, 72-44, to win the 16th Region All “A” Classic at Raceland-Worthington High School.

After six years of region, district, All “A” and Eastern Kentucky Conference tournaments passing him by, tournament Most Valuable Player Skaggs said it was nice to finally climb the ladder.

“It feels amazing,” Skaggs said. “We were as focused as we’ve been all season for this. We knew we had to come out here and take care of business, and it honestly feels good to come out of here with this win.”

Russell opened up hot, going on an 8-0 run to start the game. Skaggs made his first six shots and Elliott County never led.

What’s more impressive is that four of Russell’s starters were in double figures without playing the entire fourth quarter.

Coming into the game, Elliott County coach Greg Adkins said Russell’s the hottest team in the region. On Thursday, he said he has no shadow of a doubt that statement is true.

“They’re so solid, smart and they play so well together,” Adkins said. “They’ve got a very good coach sitting over there and he’s handled his pieces so well. If I’m not sitting over there playing against it, they’re easy to pull for.”

Russell coach Merle Kidwell said while it’s important for Skaggs to get his points, the team’s x-factor might be point guard Googie Hayes.

The senior went 4 of 4 for the game for 10 points and hit two wide-open 3-pointers.

Kidwell said Hayes’ shooting display is what he sees every day from the senior in practice.

“When we don’t have Googie on the floor we’re not near as good of a team,” Kidwell said. “He’s very valuable for us. Tonight he was huge for us.”

Lance Evans added 11 points and six rebounds and Jacob Porter added 10 points for the Red Devils.

After guarding West Carter’s top scorer on Tuesday, Porter was given Elliott County’s top scorer in Logan Nickell.

Nickell finished the game 1 of 4 from the field with only five points, and he didn’t take a shot in the second half.

“We look for a lot of scoring from Logan,” Adkins said. “You’ve got to give Russell credit and you have to give Jacob Porter a lot of credit. I thought he locked down on Logan and he did an outstanding job.”

Elliott County (10-7) was led by Isaiah Griffith, who scored 15 points off the bench for the Lions.

The win is Russell’s eighth straight. It’s the fifth straight game that Russell’s defense held opposing teams to 50 points or fewer.

Skaggs was proud of his team’s defensive effort.

“What we focus on is defense,” Skaggs said. “We know our offense comes off of our defense. If we’re holding teams to 50 a game, then that’s our No. 1 focus.”

Russell (16-4) will play the Region 3 representative in the State All “A” Classic on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at the Frankfort Convention Center.

Kidwell hopes this is just the first of many chances to cut down nets this season.

“I told them tonight I hope it’s the first of three championship nights,” Kidwell said. “Hopefully with a region and district championship, but these guys have a lot of goals and are really focused.”

 

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

Isaiah King (Fairview); Drew Swartz (Menifee County); Cameron Thomas (Rose Hill); Eli Bell (Bath County); Connor Messer (Raceland); Jordan Whitt (Morgan County); Jordan Perry (Morgan County); Dustin Black (West Carter); Kyle Brown (West Carter); Logan Nickell (Elliott County); Aaron Elliott (Elliott County); Jesse Flannery (Elliott County); Jacob Porter (Russell; Lance Evans (Russell); Googie Hayes (Russell). MVP: Kyle Skaggs (Russell).

KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at khobstetter@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.