For The Independent
After last Friday’s four-point home loss to Elliott County, Lewis County coach Joe Hampton was very pessimistic about his team’s outlook for the remainder of the season.
Four days later, which included a double-overtime two-point defeat to a highly respected Dixie Heights team, followed by a 29-point win over Raceland and a 38-point victory over Russell, that doom and gloom attitude was gone.
What a difference a day (or two, or three or four) makes.
Tuesday night’s 83-45 win over Russell gave the Lions back-to-back dominant performances against a pair of rivals and improved the team’s record in 63rd District play to 3-0.
Against Russell (4-13), Lewis County wasted no time picking up were it left off in Monday’s victory over Raceland. The Lions’ offense was so on target they jumped out to a 23-3 lead and were never challenged.
Lewis County continued to pile on the points and led 45-15 with 3:03 to play in the first half. It eventually took a 31-point advantage into the locker room.
The margin stretched to 36 with just under a minute left in the third quarter. The fourth quarter featured a running clock and only 14 points as both coaches dug deep into their benches.
So, what was the difference between Friday and Tuesday for coach Hampton’s club?
“We weren’t real happy with our effort Friday. Honestly, the whole year we haven’t been pleased with our effort. But, we played an extremely good team Saturday (Dixie Heights) … and even though we didn’t win, we played very hard,” he said. “I can handle defeat if we play hard and I thought we played extremely hard Saturday. We took (Dixie Heights) to double overtime and maybe that opened some eyes.”
In Hampton’s opinion, maybe the Dixie Heights loss was really a win. The team’s turnaround in effort certainly made it seem so.
“We tried some different lineups and had some success. We didn’t change anything, we just had some different rotations that worked, some different kids got some confidence,” he said. “Coaches don’t like to admit that sometimes there are moral victories, but it was definitely a morale booster, I’ll say that. The effort seemed to carry over to Monday night (against Raceland) and we were fortunate enough to refocus and get the same effort tonight.”
Trenton Walker agreed that the team’s confidence has spiked during the last few games. Walker led the Lions with 18 points.
“Coming off our win over Raceland … and I think the Dixie Heights game. We went to double OT with them. (Those games) helped us out a lot.”
Hampton was particularly pleased with his team’s approach to playing defense.
“On the defensive side (of the floor) is where you have to give that effort. I always say to the kids that if you’re going to take a break, take it on the offensive end, don’t take it on the defensive end,” he said. “There are a lot of things we are coaching in practice that we aren’t getting done on the floor during the game, but our effort (the last few days) has been so much better. When you have that kind of defensive effort, it makes your offense that much easier. We got some easy shots, but they directly came off our defense.”
Russell coach Merle Kidwell admitted that Lewis County (7-9) was on its game on both sides of the floor.
“I think their defensive pressure was huge for them. They were just stronger and more physical than we were, and we didn’t handle their traps very well. I thought they had a good game plan and they are starting to hit their stride,” he said. “I don’t think Brett (Ruckel) got his average, but the other guys just shot it so well that they just took us out of the game in the first quarter. And when you are down 20 after one (quarter), it just puts you behind the 8-ball.”
RUSSELL 5 19 16 5 — 45
LEWIS COUNTY 25 20 19 9 — 83
Russell (45): Hensley 0, Williams 2, Cox 0, Martin 5, Downs 7, Campbell 0, Tackett 8, Kaby 7, Hale 0, Mullins 9, McLee 5, Brewer 0, Gillam 0, Sims 2, Stump 0, Duvall 0. 3-Pt. FG: 3 (Downs, Kaby, Mullins). FT: 10-19. Fouls: 14.
Lewis County (83): Duncan 0, Walker 18, Jo. 4, Adams 13, Ruckel 15, LeMaster 2, Parker 9, Holder 3, Mason 11, Parks 0, Wallingford 2, Weddington 6, Je. McCann 0, J. Keibler 0, G. Keibler 0. 3-Pt. FG: 9 (Parker 3, Adams 2, Mason 2, Walker, Ruckel). FT: 10-18. Fouls: 18.