WEST LIBERTY —
Russell senior guard Kyle Skaggs thought he had a quiet night Tuesday.
He was quiet as a Manowar concert — 26 points in the Red Devils' 63-36 win over East Carter in the semifinals of the boys Eastern Kentucky Conference tournament at Morgan County High School.
Skaggs broke the school scoring record last week, and he now has 1,934 career points. Afterward, he was as calm as 10cc singing “I'm Not In Love” in the mid-1970s.
So, did Skaggs think his was a serene 26-point game?
“I guess you could call it that,” he said. “I mean, I've got to do what I can for us to get the win. I kind of got some unlucky calls in the beginning, but we can't do anything about that; we just want to win.”
Russell senior guard Googie Hayes knows he can get away with teasing Skaggs over his cover photo in The Independent's basketball preview. He also knows why the Red Devils are 4-0.
“He's our go-to guy,” Hayes said. “Whenever we need anything, we'll set up a play, run him off some screens, and he'll score.”
Russell coach Merle Kidwell didn't expect such a large victory margin. He said defense was the reason.
“I thought we really guarded them well,” Kidwell said. “They only had four field goals in the first half. Obviously they missed some open shots, but I think our defense had a lot to do with that.”
Skaggs contributed early — a fall-away 15-footer and a 3-pointer to go with Johnny McGuire's stick-back put Russell up, 7-2. There was one worry: Skaggs drew his second foul less than three minutes into the game (he picked up his third diving for a loose ball with 6.4 seconds left in the half).
East (2-1) took its only lead at 8-7 on Kyle Stewart's bucket with 3:53 left in the first quarter. For the next seven minutes and 31 seconds, it was Antarctica in January — not a point until Jordan Burchett knocked down a layup with 3:48 before halftime.
Not having Skaggs for much of the first half didn't matter a lot. Not when Hayes, Jacob Porter, Steven Estep and Lance Evans combined for 19 uncontested points and a 26-10 lead midway through the second quarter.
There was a myriad of ways Hayes, Porter, Estep and Evans contributed.
Hayes: four points, two assists and forcing a held ball when East's Connor Greene tried to drive for a second quarter layup. On the first assist, he threatened to drive to his right but stutter-stepped and hit Evans, who drained a 3-pointer.
Evans: seven points, including a stick-back and a layup on Hayes' second assist.
Estep: four points, including a stick-back of his own miss and jumper on an Evans-to-Porter-to Estep double pass.
“We just lost our heads, lost our edge,” East coach Brandon Baker said. “We never could recover. Russell took full advantage.”
Porter: six points, including a clean-up of Ramsey Mullins' miss and a layup.
When Skaggs came back late in the second quarter, he scored off a Hayes screen, a fast-break layup and a baseline drive when Hayes passed to him in stride.
The Red Devils meet Fleming County for the championship at approximately 8 p.m. Thursday. Kidwell said containing the Panthers' Darion Burns and Troy Steward, who each scored 28 points in Monday's double-overtime semifinal win over Rowan County, is a concern.
And Hayes? His postgame thoughts included Rupp Arena and the state tournament, but he was careful to not say anything that would appear in Flemingsburg locker rooms.
“Can't wait,” Hayes said.
East Carter 8 6 8 14 — 36
Russell 20 12 15 16 — 63
EAST CARTER: Burchett 3, Stewart 12, Brammer 2, Greene 4, Marsh 4, Row 2, Neace 7, Lewis 2. Three-point goals: Stewart. FT: 13-25. Team Fouls: 15.
RUSSELL: Estep 8, Hayes 6, Evans 5, Porter 8, Skaggs 26, Tackett 3, McGuire 7. Three-point goals: Skaggs 4, Evans. FT: 8-11. Team fouls: 19.
East Carter 64
It wasn’t hard to find the reason the Lady Raiders are playing Fleming County for the title at 6 p.m. Thursday: a 15-3 run in the second quarter.
At first, East Carter's Bryana Greenhill was the entire offense. Her driving layup and a bucket off Kristen Mayo's pass resulted in a 4-0 lead.
Russell at least had three scorers. Junior Hope Parsley's five points, senior Arden Gross' four and sophomore Shelby Huddleston put the Lady Devils up, 11-8, with 3:30 to go in the first.
“Russell started the game with a little more energy,” East coach Hager Easterling said. “I told (our team) you have to learn to fight and scrap.”
From there, not a Lady Devil (1-2) point was scored until Hannah Carter's three from the left corner with 16 seconds remaining.
In between, East (3-0) unleashed some basketball fundamentals.
There was pinpoint passing when Greenhill, at the top of the key, found Ashley Bayes underneath for a layup.
There was a conversion of a turnover when Greenhill's steal became a Kelsey Stumbo three.
There was an example of the benefit of an extra pass when Greenhill saw Alexis Pennington in the left corner, followed by Pennington's pass to Mayo, who knocked down a three from the left wing.
“They're just an unselfish bunch,” Easterling said.
Mayo (who led East with 13 points) finished the run with four points after she picked up a pair of loose balls, and Megan Stickler added another four points off Mayo's inbounds pass and a turnover conversion.
Stumbo and Pennington each added 12 points.
Russell closed to within 33-21 on Parsley's field goal. She led her team with 13 points.
Easterling called Fleming County a “high-energy team.”
“They're going to fight you 32 minutes,” he said. “We have to be ready to fight back.”
East Carter 11 15 21 17 — 64
Russell 11 3 9 14 — 37
EAST CARTER: Greenhill 8, Mayo 13, Stickler 7, Stumbo 12, Pennington 12, Bayes 6, Boggs 6. Three-point goals: Pennington 2, Stumbo, Mayo. FT: 10-17. Team Fouls: 22.
RUSSELL: Harrison 4, Madison Darnell 1, McKenzie Darnell 1, Gross 8, Parsley 13, Huddleston 2, Thompson 3, Carter 5. Three-point goals: Carter, Thompson, Parsley, Gross, Harrison. FT: 12-26. Team fouls: 14.
WEST LIBERTY —
Russell senior guard Kyle Skaggs thought he had a quiet night Tuesday.
- 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.
'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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- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)