Lewis County's boys basketball team played its one and only game Monday in its small high school gym.
Maybe the Lions should leave their home at Lewis County Middle School the rest of the season. Brett Ruckel's 17 points led the Lions way past Raceland, 74-45, in a 63rd District seeding game.
“(It's) loud, noisy,” sophomore guard Trenton Walker said. “It gets the players more into the game.”
There was a lot for Lewis County to like: For one night, a sizable share of the offense came from someone other than Ruckel: senior Wade Adams scored 13 points, and Walker added 12.
Ruckel was happy to have some help on offense, and he said his team has been “just trying to figure it out” how to play together as a team. “That's the only thing we've been working on,” he said.
Lewis County (6-9) leads the district at 3-0, a game ahead of Raceland. Lions head coach Joe Hampton will not be coming back to the high school gym, and he said Monday's effort actually began in Saturday's 78-75 double-overtime loss to Ninth Region power Dixie Heights, a marked difference from a home loss to Elliott County, 65-61, the night before.
“The effort I’ve been looking for all year, I saw in the Dixie game,” Hampton said. “We didn't win the game, but the effort was there … and we got it again (last night). If (the Dixie Heights game) was a springboard for us, we'll take it.”
Lewis County's defense was as important as the offense Monday. Especially because the Lions held the Rams' two leading scorers, Connor Messer (16.1 points a game before last night) and Tyler Morris (14.8) to six and five points, respectively.
Raceland coach Bob Trimble emphatically said noise had nothing to do with the final score, but making just eight of 23 free throws didn't help.
“We just got our butts kicked,” Trimble said. “They just wore us out in every facet of the game, and until our pride factor kicks in and our energy changes and our mentality changes, we're going to continue to struggle.”
Walker guarded Messer, who missed the second half with an injury. He said pushing Messer to the baseline was an important part of the game plan.
“He tried to post me up a couple times,” Walker said. “ … Our plan was to push him left the whole night.”
Hampton said sophomore Jake Parker guarded Morris most of the game. Hampton said the key was to hound Morris when he caught the ball “and then not give him an open look at the bucket.”
It was a great night for Lewis County from the opening tip, and not just because the Lions led the whole way.
There was offensive rebounding. In less than 90 seconds, junior Isaac Weddington grabbed a Ruckel missed 3-pointer, and Walker's bucket gave the Lions a 4-0 lead.
There was defense. Lewis County held the Rams (6-5) to just two points in the second quarter.
There was balanced offense. Part of Lewis County's 12-4 run midway through the first quarter included Ruckel's backcourt steal and score, an Adams conversion of Daulton Mason's steal and Ruckel's baseline 15-foot floater.
And Raceland? Nothing for nearly two minutes of the opening stanza except for a turnover and two missed free throws. Messer didn't get his first field goal until just over two minutes in and finished the half with six points.
There was long-distance marksmanship. Adams' three from the left wing put his team up, 20-9, with 37 seconds left in the first.
There was pinpoint passing. Walker dropped in a left-side layup midway through the second quarter on Jordan McCann's across-the-paint assist.
There were long scoring runs. A 12-2 second-stanza streak — including a Parker reverse layup and Ruckel's eight-footer in the free throw lane — gave the Lions a 32-14 advantage, and a 23-14 third-quarter tear featured Ruckel's eight points.
David Pennington led Raceland with eight points. Lewis County hosts Russell tonight at 7:30.
RACELAND 12 2 13 18 — 45
LEWIS CO. 20 18 23 13 — 74
Raceland (45): Messer 6, Braden 2, Adams 3, Young 3, Christian 2, Davidson 3, Blair 3, Pennington 8, Kelly 3, Morris 5, Brown 2, Holbrook 0, Howard 5.
Lewis Co. (74): Duncan 3, Walker 12, Adams 13, Ruckel 17, Mason 4, Parker 8, Mason 4, Holder 4, Lemaster 2, Wallingfor 4, Weddington 2, Jordan McCann 2, Jeremy McCann 3.
Free throws: R 8-23; LC 16-23. Three-pointers: R 2 (Kelly, Morris); LC 2 (Adams, Jeremy McCann).