After a physical matchup against Clark County the night before, Ashland found the energy to battle its way to a Senior Night victory over Russell on Tuesday.
With both defenses giving a good account of themselves, uncontested shots were few and far between in Anderson Gym.
Ashland limited the Lady Devils to 26 percent shooting from the field to win 56-46 in a game that was rescheduled twice for weather reasons.
“We made them work offensively,” Kittens coach Bill Bradley said. “It was the same on both ends of the floor. There weren’t many easy baskets.”
Even so, Ashland managed to gain some separation with a 7-0 run to end the first half. Junior Haley-Sue Foutch hit a 14-footer to start the surge and also ended it with a steal-and-score, enabling the Kittens to take a 32-21 lead into the locker room.
Russell, an 18-game winner for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, couldn’t get closer than seven in the second half but stayed within striking distance much of the way.
“Russell is dangerous,” Bradley said. “They beat Boyd County early in the season and hung tough with East Carter for three quarters. They also beat Bath County and played a tough game tonight.”
The Lady Devils held Ashland to 34 percent shooting and the Kittens also had trouble making free throws.
“What I liked most was our team defense,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “We did a good job overall contesting shots and stopping the drive.”
Ditto for Ashland, which blocked eight shots in reaching the 20-win mark for the fourth consecutive season. The Kittens went on to the 16th Region finals each of the last three years, winning it the past two.
Foutch and point guard Alexis Robinson combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds Tuesday night.
The 5-foot-11 Foutch made 7-of-10 shots and finished with 17 points, including three baskets down the stretch after Russell closed to within eight points.
Robinson scored 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers in the first half, to go with nine rebounds and a team-high three blocks.
The Kittens’ other top junior, Shelby Gransbery, came off the bench for a change on Senior Night and supplied nine points and seven rebounds.
“I really liked the way Shelby went to the basket,” Bradley said. “We’ve been working on that, and she really took it to heart.”
Josie Roberts, one of three senior players honored before the game, took advantage of a rare start to give the Kittens a boost. Roberts supplied eight points, five rebounds and solid defense while playing extended minutes.
“Josie had a great game on both ends,” Bradley said. “She slashes hard. She’s probably the best on the team at cutting hard to the basket.”
Roberts made a touch pass to Foutch in transition for the game’s first points and also connected on a triple in the first quarter.
Russell’s only lead came at 4-2 before Foutch made two free throws and Robinson followed with a 3-pointer.
Maggie Jachimczuk made her presence felt inside for Russell with a dozen points and season-high 17 rebounds.
“Maggie was very active,” Layne said of the 5-10 freshman. “She’s continuing to show she’s one of the best post players in the region.”
Hannah Carter also finished with 12 points for the Lady Devils and eighth-grader Madison Darnell added 10.
Russell’s Senior Night is Thursday against Lawrence County.
Ashland (20-6) closes the regular season at home Thursday against East Carter.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.