The Lady Raiders threatened to break it open early in the second half on Stickler's putback and Mayo's steal-and-score.
Instead, Russell mounted a comeback. Hannah Carter hit from behind the arc to cap a 7-0 run that trimmed the deficit to six points with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter.
“I feel like our team has been resilient all year,” said Layne, whose team bounced Boyd County in the regional tournament opener. “They have continued to fight and fight all year long.”
Easterling wasn't surprised to see the Lady Devils battle their way back into the game.
“They were the hot team from Tuesday and came in with confidence,” he said. “For a long stretch tonight they had more energy.”
East Carter turned up its defense, however, and outscored Russell 10-0 to end the third quarter for a 40-24 advantage. Bryana Greenhill, who finished with three steals, lit the spark with her quick hands. She made two free throws following her own takeaway. Shortly after, a Russell player tried to throw the ball off Greenhill's legs along the baseline but she caught it for one of the Lady Devils' 11 turnovers in the quarter.
“We changed our pressure more to a zone press and got a lot of good things out of it,” Easterling said.
Said Layne: “I think we got a little fatigued there. We had a few turnovers in a row, and allowed them to open it to 15.”
The momentum carried over to the fourth quarter as East Carter's bench scored eight consecutive points. Alexis Pennington's layup made it 47-24 after Stumbo blocked a shot at the other end of the floor.
Stumbo contributed five blocks overall to the Lady Raiders' strong defensive effort. Mayo led the team in steals with four.
Hall scored 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go with three assists and two steals. Bayes had nine points.
For Russell (21-12), Maggie Jachimczuk had nine points and nine rebounds, while Carter also totaled nine points.
“I want to thank my three seniors,” Layne said of Carter, Lexi Berry and Hayley Sparks. “They were my first group to completely go through. They have have been such a big part of our success, leading us to the (region) final four the last two years.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.