Raceland boys basketball coach Bob Trimble's pregame message consisted of one simple number.
“I had a big No. 9 written on the grease board,” Trimble said. “The kids knew what it meant.”
Raceland emphatically snapped a nine-game losing skid to 63rd District rival Russell with a 64-39 victory in the opening round of the ninth annual Raceland Derby Classic on Thursday at Raceland-Worthington High School.
Derby Classic defending champion Lawrence County took care of business to tip off the evening, disposing of Fairview, 80-54.
Two more first-round games are on tap tonight, beginning with Campbell County-Betsy Layne at 6:30. East Carter and South Floyd tip off at approximately 8:15. Saturday features two consolation games and the semifinals. The finals are set for Sunday at 8:15, following three consolation contests.
On Thursday, it was all Raceland and Lawrence County.
Zach Kelly drilled two unanswered 3-pointers to get the Rams rolling in the third quarter — the pair of treys gave Raceland a 31-18 lead. He tallied a game-high 15 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting while earning Player of the Game honors.
"That was big," Trimble said. "Zach has worked extremely hard on shooting the ball, and that's what I want him to do, shoot."
Fellow junior Connor Messer also got going in the second half after a quiet first. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Reserve Josh Young matched Messer for the team-high in boards.
Like a hockey coach, Trimble regularly signaled line changes — a fresh five would replace another five.
"We have a lot of depth, and that's how we want to play," Trimble said. "Defensively is where we have to be our best."
The Rams forced 22 Russell turnovers, many of which came in an unraveling second half for the Red Devils.
"I thought our steady pressure wore them down," said Trimble, whose team also struggled with giveaways — the Rams racked up 20 turnovers.
Raceland (3-1) went on a 12-2 tear bridging the third and fourth quarters, increasing the margin to 53-32 with six minutes left.
Russell (1-6) managed just four made shots in the first 16 minutes, but trailed by just seven at the break. Overall, the Red Devils were 11 of 40 from the floor.
"They had a lot to do with it," Red Devils coach Merle Kidwell credited Raceland.
"In seven games, this was our first real clunker," Kidwell continued. "I told the kids we can either wallow in self-pity or come back. We've got six games in a 10-day period."
Raceland's Tyler Morris scored 11 of his 13 total points in the first half.
Zach Tackett led Russell with nine points. Caleb Martin added seven points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Raceland takes on either East Carter or South Floyd on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. Russell will be in action at 4:45.
RUSSELL 7 11 12 9 — 39
RACELAND 15 10 18 21 — 64
Russell (39) — Tackett 9, Raby 3, Mullins 8, Miller 1, Sims 4, Trammell 2, Downs 2, Martin 7, Bennett 2, Brewer 1, McKee, Campbell, Hensley, Cox. 3-Pt. FG: 2 (Martin, Tackett). FT: 14-24. PF: 16. Turnovers: 22.
Raceland (64) — Messer 14, Blair 5, Kelly 15, Morris 13, Brown, Holbrook 2, Bressler 2, Young 3, Dixon 4, Pennington 6, Adams, Braden. 3-Pt. FG: 7 (Kelly 5, Morris 2). FT: 10-15. PF: 16. Turnovers: 20.
Lawrence Co. 80
Lawrence County coach Josh Cook said the Bulldogs have the word "family" stripped above their locker room door.
Most families don't even share as well as Cook's team.
Fairview coach Derek Cooksey took quick notice of the opposing lineup, which features four sophomores and one freshman.
"They're well beyond their years," Cooksey said. "They're comfortable with one another. Chemistry is great, spacing is great. They're a tough matchup."
Brandon Richardson led the Bulldogs (6-1) in scoring, with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He sank four 3-pointers and pulled down seven rebounds.
"He's a shooter, but he does a lot of small things, too," Cook said. "He makes smart plays."
Timmy Dalton, who served as a catalyst on both ends of the floor during a 28-12 third-quarter Bulldog run, finished with 19 points. Named Player of the Game, the freshman added six boards.
Grant Kiser amassed 17 points and Robert Dalton had 14 for the Bulldogs.
Cook couldn't help but smile when he learned his team committed just seven turnovers.
"That's definitely something we're trying to improve on. We'd been having too many unforced turnovers," Cook said. "I feel like we're getting better at that."
Cook said a significant bump in energy helped Lawrence County pull away from Fairview (1-2) as the Bulldogs transformed a 32-26 second-quarter lead into a 64-38 advantage by third quarter's end.
"We played at a much higher level of defense in the second half," he said.
Lawrence County's up-tempo pressure took a toll on Fairview, playing just its third game, said Cooksey.
"You can't simulate that style in practice," Cooksey said. "I think fatigue got us a little bit."
Andrew Carroll led the Eagles with 13 points. Isaiah King chipped in 12. Alex Roy led the team with nine rebounds.
Both teams return to action on Saturday. Lawrence County will face either Campbell County or Betsy Layne in the winners' bracket semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Fairview slides into the consolation bracket. The Eagles play at 3 p.m.
LAWRENCE 20 16 28 16 — 80
FAIRVIEW 12 14 12 16 — 54
Lawrence County (80) — T. Dalton 19, Richardson 20, R. Dalton 14, Kiser 17, Chaffins 5, J. Ratliff 2, M. Ratliff 3, Moore, Blankenship, Jude, Hall. 3-Pt. FG: 7 (Kiser 2, Richardson 4, M. Ratliff). FT: 8-15. PF: 11. Turnovers: 7.
Fairview (54) — Carroll 13, King 12, Washington 7, Jones 3, Roy 6, Hightower 7, Roark 2, Williams 2, Delong 2, Smith. 3-Pt. FG: 5 (King 2, Washington, Hightower, Jones). FT: 4-7. PF: 11. Turnovers: 17.