Hope Parsley knew something had to be done.
An ugly, low-scoring first half Saturday afternoon left Russell and West Carter searching for a spark in the opening round of the Girls 16th Region Basketball Tournament.
Russell’s Parsley took it upon herself to make a difference. The 5-foot-8 junior, who scored her 1,000th career point in the 63rd District finals to help send the Lady Devils past Lewis County, came through again in another pressurized situation.
Parsley scored all but two of her game-high 16 points in the second half to lift Russell out of the doldrums for a 45-35 victory at Ellis T. Johnson Arena.
After taking only two shots in the first half while Russell struggled to a 17-16 lead, Parsley resurfaced after the intermission. She scored the first eight points of the third quarter, then passed to Shelby Huddleston for a 3-pointer that extended the margin to 12 points.
West Carter, outscored 13-2 in the third period, never got the deficit to single digits the rest of the way.
“It all clicked together the second half,” said Parsley, who was 8-for-12 from the floor and also supplied nine rebounds, three blocked shots, two steals and a couple of assists. “I challenged myself.”
Her coach, Mandy Layne, was happy to see Parsley step up and swing the momentum in Russell’s favor.
“Her aggressiveness was the difference,” Layne said. “We were able to get her the ball in open space, and she looked to attack.”
The win enabled the Lady Devils to end a long drought between trips to the regional semifinals. Their last appearance came in 2007 with Merle Kidwell at the helm.
Russell (15-16) moves on to play Boyd County at 6 p.m. Monday for a spot in Tuesday’s championship game.
“It’s a been a while since we got this opportunity,” Parsley said. “We’re ready to go in, play Boyd County and try our hardest.”
Arden Gross, the only senior in the Lady Devils starting lineup, supplied most of the team’s offense in the first half with all 10 of her points. She scored eight in the first quarter and added a basket midway through the second period to give Russell a 17-9 lead.
But the Lady Devils went scoreless the remainder of the half, and West Carter found enough offense to pull within one point. The teams combined for 22 turnovers in the first half while connecting on only 13 of 38 shots.
Nerves, as Layne suggested, may have played a part. Russell last made it into the regional field in 2010 and West Carter’s last trip was two years ago.
“For our girls, it was the first time on the floor in the regional tournament,” Layne said. “There were probably some first-game jitters early on. In the second half we worked them out.”
Russell put the game away as Emily Hanson led an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter. Hanson started it with a layup after taking a pass from Gross, who made the assist on her knees. Parsley followed with a 16-footer, she converted a layup and then scored again on an athletic move to make it 45-26.
West Carter (12-18) was stuck on 26 points until reserves added nine points at the end. It marked the 11th time the Lady Comets have been held below 40 points this season.
“We went through a dry spell there in the third quarter,” West Carter coach Bart Stevens said. “We’ve been through those before. Today we missed too many easy shots and free throws (7 of 14). Our Achilles’ heel is not being able to put the ball in the basket.”
The Lady Comets shot 13-for-42. Alexis Berry had nine points for team scoring honors.
Layne was a starter on West Carter’s 2000 state championship team and said those memories came rushing back again Saturday.
“It was a great year, a great accomplishment,” she said.
‰Tickets for Russell’s semifinal game will be on sale Monday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at RHS.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.