Russell shot 26.3 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from the free throw line and totaled 36 points on Friday night at Greenup County.
Thanks to the Red Devils’ defensive efforts in the post and on the Musketeers’ shooters, that was good enough for Russell to pull out a 36-32 victory in the Greenhouse.
That gave the Red Devils their first triumph of the calendar year, snapped their eight-game losing streak and handed Russell its first 63rd District tournament seeding victory of the season.
When you’re 4-16, there are no ugly wins, despite whatever the scoreboard and stat sheet might say.
“I told the guys we were 0-for-2014 at practice today, and kind of got into them a little bit about, I want them to win,” Red Devils coach Merle Kidwell said. “It’s not for me or any of the coaches, it’s for them because they keep grinding in practice and they call extra to get in the gym.”
Ethan Raby and Zach Tackett each scored 10 points to pace the Red Devils (5-16). Senior Johnny McGuire, playing in his third game of the season after breaking a bone in his leg three times in succession, had eight points and eight boards.
More importantly, the Red Devils held Greenup County’s Robbie Dillon and Jair Jackson to a combined six points. Those two totaled 35 in the teams’ first meeting, a 65-55 Musketeers victory on Dec. 12 in Russell.
Brandon Johnson led Greenup County (6-11) with 10 points. Jackson cleared a game-high 12 rebounds.
Greenup County shot 25.5 percent from the field and 54.5 percent at the line. It had one stretch of 14 minutes-plus without a field goal, from Jherrell Jackson’s steal and transition layup with 1:22 to go in the first quarter until his 3-pointer with 3:07 left in the third frame.
That allowed the Red Devils to stay in the game despite scoring just four points in the first quarter as the Musketeers built a one-time 13-2 lead.
Russell focused on neutralizing Jair Jackson, listed at 6-foot-6, in the paint. Greenup County subsequently went 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
‘We had a good game plan. I’ll have to give (assistant) coach (Joe) Bryan credit,” Kidwell said. “In our shootaround today, he mentioned, ‘Let’s double down in the post and make them make some 3s.’”
The Musketeers couldn’t do enough of that to compensate from not getting much out of the interior.
“We work on defense every day in practice. That’s the majority of what we work on,” McGuire said. ”We have shooters, we have post players, we have everything in between, but defense was what we were lacking at the beginning of the season, and it’s what we’re coming together with right now.”
Russell got contributions, big and small, from nearly its whole 11-man rotation.
“Caleb Martin gave us a lift, Pavin Downs gave us some good first-half minutes, and Johnny was strong the whole game,” Kidwell said. “Zach made some big free throws and Ethan Raby, he’s kind of (got) ice water in his veins down the stretch ... I thought Heath Hensley stepped up at the point guard position.”
Greenup County led 25-20 entering the fourth quarter, but the Red Devils won the final frame 16-7. Hensley put Russell on top for good by canning the front end of a 1-and-1 for a 31-30 lead with 1:12 to play.
Tackett then hit one of two charity tosses the next time down the court, and McGuire blocked Jherrell Jackson’s attempt in the lane to tie with 20.5 seconds to go.
With the win, Russell — at least for now — avoided the fourth seed in the district tournament and a meeting with top-seeded Lewis County in the opening round of the district tournament.
Raceland is 3-2 in seeding games and the Red Devils and Musketeers are now both 1-4, having split their season series. That means if Russell can beat the Lions on Friday at home and Greenup County loses to the Rams on Thursday, Russell earns the 3-seed outright and a date with Raceland — which clinched the second seed with Greenup County’s loss Friday — in the district tournament.
Greenup County can still win the third seed outright if it beats Raceland and Lewis County beats the Red Devils. If Russell and Greenup County either both win or both lose their final seeding games, they would finish tied for the third seed and would blind draw to determine the third and fourth seeds.
“You want to try to avoid the four-hole, and nothing against anybody else, we’re probably pulling for Raceland when they do play Greenup, just so we can stay out of the 4-hole,” Kidwell said.
Greenup County coach Harold Tackett was not available for comment immediately following the game.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.
RUSSELL FG FT REB TP
Raby 3-7 2-2 1 10
McKee 0-0 0-2 2 0
Bennett 0-1 0-0 0 0
Tackett 2-5 5-8 5 10
McGuire 3-12 2-4 8 8
Martin 1-2 3-6 4 5
Hensley 0-6 1-2 0 1
Cox 0-1 0-0 0 0
Campbell 0-0 0-0 0 0
Downs 1-2 0-0 1 2
Sims 0-1 0-0 2 0
Team 0-1 8
TOTALS 10-38 13-24 31 36
FG Pct.: 26.3. FT Pct.: 54.2. 3-pointers: 3-13 (Raby 2-6, Tackett 1-3, Hensley 0-2, Cox 0-1, Downs 0-1). PF: 13. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 12.
GREENUP CO. FG FT REB TP
Jh. Jackson 4-15 0-1 4 9
Ja. Jackson 1-7 0-2 12 2
Dillon 1-9 2-3 2 4
Hughes 2-8 0-0 4 5
Johnson 4-8 2-3 7 10
Brown 0-0 0-0 0 0
Grooms 0-0 0-0 1 0
Wireman 0-0 2-2 0 2
TOTALS 12-47 6-11 33 32
FG Pct.: 25.5. FT Pct.: 54.5. 3-pointers: 2-17 (Jh. Jackson 1-7, Dillon 0-5, Hughes 1-5). PF: 17. Fouled out: Johnson. Turnovers: 14.
RUSSELL 4 10 6 16 — 36
GREENUP CO. 13 2 10 7 — 32
Officials: Dave Anderson, Shane Ramey and Roy Wright.