Letting one get away against Rowan County had haunted Raceland since Sept. 10.
Aside from that hiccup, the Lady Rams have been scary good inside the 16th Region.
Now, on Oct. 31, they’re playing for the title following a 3-0 win (25-18, 25-18, 25-19) over Rowan County on Wednesday at Russell High School.
“Tomorrow’s Halloween, so the orange-and-black team’s got to be there,” said Raceland coach Jason Clark as he glanced at the scoreboard between semifinal matches. “We’ve got 24 minutes and 22 seconds to enjoy this and then we’ve got to start focusing on who wins this match.”
Raceland meets Ashland tonight at 7 at Russell for the championship. The Lady Rams are winners of 21 straight. They’re 24-1 against region opponents.
Rowan County (22-16) bounced back from a 2-0 hole seven weeks ago to hand Raceland that lone region loss.
The pre-match message was to remember that day.
“We talked all week about the (tournament) draw and to remember Sept. 10,” Clark said. “Giving that one away probably helped us tonight. It kept us focused, kept us energized.”
Raceland (34-4) dominated the Valkyries from the get-go, with a 25-18 win in Game 1.
The Lady Rams followed that up with a 10-0 spurt to open the second game. Savannah Mackie served for all 10 points.
“That was huge,” Clark said. “When Savannah Mackie goes back and serves, we’ve been pretty good with that rotation. Her serves are key for our team. We have to make sure we finish plays when she’s back there.”
Kymbria Williams, the region’s reigning top player, found her rhythm at the net in the third game. During one particular stint, Williams’ hard-striking spikes accounted for three kills as Raceland distanced itself from a tight contest.
Freshman libero Leigh Grubb then racked up three of her five Game 3 aces with perfectly placed serves inside the lines forming the right back corner.
“For a freshman to serve like that tonight on the biggest stage she’s ever played in, that’s an unbelievable effort by Leigh Grubb,” Clark said. “She was unbelievable controlling that back row.”
Together, Williams and Grubb helped Raceland roll off 11 consecutive points to take a commanding 18-7 lead in Game 3.
“We have a great, wonderful team,” Williams said. “I would not trade them for anything. Everybody at Raceland is a family. That’s what we say in our breakdown — 1, 2, 3, family — because we come together and play as a team.”
When Rowan County charged back behind the solid play of Faith Conn, Megan Armstrong and Abby Hammond, the Lady Rams remained composed, said senior Abby Brogan.
“We stayed calm,” Brogan said. “We know if we go out there and play our game, we’ll win.”
Brogan halted the Valkyries’ 7-0 run with an authoritative kill shot to give Raceland a 24-19 advantage. The Lady Rams scored the very next point to cap the win, handing Rowan County its first 3-0 loss in the region.
“I’ve played volleyball for seven years and this is the most fun I’ve had,” Brogan said.
Brogan had eight kills, while MaKenzi Speaks added six. Williams led the team with 14 kills and three blocks.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Raceland avenges only region loss, sweeps Rowan, 3-0
Letting one get away against Rowan County had haunted Raceland since Sept. 10.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
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.”
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