Lewis County’s girls have dominated the 63rd District over the past three seasons, owning a 20-3 record against district opponents during that time.
But one of those three setbacks came to Russell in last year’s district finals, and don’t think the Lady Lions didn’t remember.
Lewis County toppled the defending district champion Lady Devils, 56-42, in the district tournament final on Thursday on Russell’s floor in Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.
And then the Lady Lions and their fans celebrated like a team with a year’s worth of pent-up frustration to exorcise.
“It’s like revenge,” Lewis County junior center Savannah Anderson said with an ear-to-ear grin after posting 23 points and 13 rebounds, the game high in both categories. “It’s the most amazing feeling you could ever think of, especially coming here to Russell and beating them. I mean, I’m not trying to sound rude or anything, but it was awesome.”
After cutting the final pieces of the net down and executing a mid-air toe touch on demand from his team, coach Jay Fite noted his team took motivation from its 59-53 loss to the Lady Devils in last year’s district championship.
“Last year, Russell put it to us, and our kids really took it personally, and they wanted to shine tonight,” he said. “So we came out with a lot of great effort.”
McKenzie Thompson chipped in 15 points for the Lady Lions (20-10), who won their second district tournament title in school history and matched the program record for wins in a season. The 2011-2012 team was the only other to achieve those distinctions.
Maggie Jachmiczuk led Russell (20-11) with 11 points. The Lady Devils used a 10-2 run to begin the third quarter to cut their deficit to four points and stayed within 38-34 after Jachimczuk’s bucket down low with 2:30 to go in the third period.
But that was as close as they got, as Lewis County scored the final seven points of the third stanza and first two of the fourth to stretch its edge back to 13 points.
“We just couldn’t get a couple baskets that we needed to get with a couple defensive stops,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “We couldn’t put them both together.”
The Lady Lions gained a big halftime lead mainly on the shoulders of Anderson, who had a double-double in the first half alone on 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“She was catching everything clean,” Fite said. “ ... She just decided she was gonna be a beast in there tonight. That’s as well as she’s played, I think, this season. I think she just kind of said, ‘Giddy-up,’ there in the first half.”
Thompson then pitched in 10 of her 15 points in the second half as the Lady Devils adjusted to slow Anderson.
“Proud of my team, not just myself, the whole team,” Anderson said, “and I wouldn’t have accomplished that goal without my team.”
Lewis County prevailed, and handily, despite getting just five points from Emily Frye and three from Jaycey Fite. Frye was scoring 15.3 points per game and Fite was notching 10.9 winding down the regular season.
Jaycey Fite did, however, drain a 3-pointer to close the third period and put the Lady Lions up 45-34 entering the final frame, and Frye had back-to-back buckets, the second an and-1 with 1:26 remaining, that handed Lewis County a double-digit lead for good.
“We talk so much about our team being so unselfish, and there’s been nights when Savannah hasn’t scored but three or six or seven, and then Emily’s had 25 or Jaycey’s had 20, and they don’t care,” Jay Fite said. “ ... There’s just no unselfish bone in their body.”
The Lady Lions’ ownership of the 63rd District comes on the heels of just two winning district campaigns in the previous 13 seasons before their current three-year run.
Jay Fite distributed credit for that turnaround to his assistant coaches and players, and mentioned the role of the fan support, too.
“We’re on somebody else’s home floor tonight, and we just bring waves of blue and camo and everything else,” he said. “It was great.”
Both teams advance to the 16th Region Tournament next week in Morehead. Though Russell enters on a bit of a downer, it still feels it’s had a successful year so far.
“I feel like we still have had an awesome season, winning 20 games,” Layne said. “We’re gonna take confidence from that.”
LEWIS COUNTY — Emily Frye, Savannah Anderson, Jaycey Fite, McKenzie Thompson. RUSSELL — Maggie Jachimczuk, Hannah Carter, Lexi Berry. RACELAND — Krystal Keeton. GREENUP COUNTY — Sydney Webb.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.