ASHLAND Ashland scratched and clawed from behind all night long Monday, and were rewarded with a hard-fought, come from behind victory over Russell.
“I think it built confidence for them to know they can beat anybody in the region,” Ashland coach Stacy Davis said of what the win meant to her team. “If we can get over that hump, play close, we can beat anyone in the region.”
This is just the second 16th Region loss for the Red Devils, who had won their previous 10 region matchups after an early-season loss to Rowan County.
“Honestly, we were kind of playing not to lose,” Russell coach Mandy Layne. “As they started coming back, instead of us continuing to do the things we did to get us there, we backed off. Give credit to Ashland because they really started to come after us and played a really good second half.”
Ashland trailed by as many 12 at different points in the second quarter, and only led in the second half for less than a minute of game time.
“We came out timid and let Shaylen Steele do what she wanted the first half,” Davis said. “I said to them [at halftime] somebody has to step up and we have to put pressure on her, make her give the ball up, make her play faster, and that’s what we did.”
A sleepy start from the Red Devils allowed the Kittens to jump out to a 7-1 lead, but Russell quickly woke up.
From there, the Red Devils made up for the slow start and worked to take a 17-15 lead to end the opening quarter.
Junior Shaelyn Steele gave Russell the boost it needed to get jump-started in the first frame, putting up 11 points.
The Red Devils dictated the pace of the second quarter, making way for the team to build on their lead.
Russell held Ashland without a made basket through the first half of the second frame, as the Red Devils took a 37-26 advantage into halftime.
At the break, Steele led her team in scoring with 17. Ashland was led by junior Ella Sellars with 10.
“She dominated the first half,” Layne said of Steele’s performance. “In the second half they were throwing two or three people at her. We’re just going to have to do a better job of finding the open person and making sure we’re hitting open shots.”
The Kittens were shooting just under 35% at halftime, compared to Russell’s 55%.
Right out of the gate to start the second half, the Kittens looked more aggressive, tightening up on defense and carving a piece out of Russell’s lead to make it 39-35.
A timeout from Russell looked to settle things back into place as they pulled back out to a 47-38 lead.
Ashland wasn’t settling for that, however, as it pulled within two.
A big 3-pointer by Bella Quinn in the closing seconds of the frame gave the Red Devils some breathing room, going into the final frame up 50-45.
That breathing room ran out of oxygen in the fourth quarter.
With 2:37 left, Russell called timeout up just two, 58-56, after a 3-pointer from eighth grader Jenna Delaney.
Delaney had drawn a charge moments beforehand and got up limping. She didn’t want to come out, however, so she stayed and hit the 3-ball on the next possession.
“Jenna Delaney is our go-to for everything,” Davis said. “That shot she made, she’s not a 3-point shooter, but for her to take that shot after getting plowed over was huge. To me, that’s the play of the game.”
About a minute later, a free throw from junior Jaidyn Gulley gave the Kittens their first lead, 61-60, since the 15-12 mark in the first quarter.
The Kittens wouldn’t trail again.
“Hopefully this is going to make us hungrier,” Layne said. “All of us feel like we just let a game slip away. I just hope it’s going to make us work harder and hopefully we can get better down the stretch.”
In the closing seconds, with the game tied 63-63, Ashland got a crucial stop under Russell’s basket, went coast to coast, and sophomore Kenleigh Woods’s drive to the bucket resulted in the game winner with two seconds to spare.
With that, the final seconds dissipated before the Red Devils could inbound it and Ashland had completed the comeback, winning 65-63, after trailing by as many as nine in the fourth quarter.
“At the end, after we got the miss, I knew our best thing is transition,” Davis said. “We’re not calling a timeout, we’re getting down the court to score. If they had scored, we would’ve called a timeout, but transition is our game to get it and go.”
Sellars led the night with 23 points. Steele was right behind with 22.
After the less than stellar shooting percentage in the first half, Ashland hit 15 of 21 field goals in the second half, improving from 34.7% to 71.4%.
Meanwhile, Russell’s second half saw them hit just nine of 23 attempts, falling from 55.1% to just 39.1%.
“I felt like we got a good look at it,” Layne said. “We had Shae shooting a layup and it just didn’t go in. We were kind of scrambling around and credit to Kenleigh. She knew to drive it hard to the basket and put it in.”
Ashland (14-4) plays again Tuesday night, on the road against Fairview.
“We’re hoping to rest a few,” Davis said. “It’s a district game, but we’ve already played them once in our seeding game. So we want to be able to come out and play like we did tonight, and hopefully get some more bodies in and rest a little bit.”
Russell (14-8) next plays on Saturday, when they host Ryle.
“We were able to beat them last year, so they’re probably going to come in with a little bit of fire,” Layne said. “But our main goal is to maintain intensity for 32 minutes.”
RUSSELL FG FT REB TP
Steele 9-25 3-5 7 22
Darnell 4-6 3-4 2 14
Quinn 4-9 0-0 3 11
Fitzpatrick 3-4 0-0 2 6
Atkins 2-3 0-0 5 4
Sanders 2-2 0-0 3 4
Oborne 1-2 0-0 2 2
Adkins 0-1 0-0 1 0
TOTAL 25-52 6-9 27 63
FG Pct.: 48.1. FT Pct.: 66.6. 3-pointers: 7-17 (Darnell 3-3, Quinn 3-5, Steele 1-6, Adkins 0-1, Atkins 0-1, Oborne 0-1). PF:19. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 11
ASHLAND FG FT REB TP
Sellars 7-13 6-11 4 23
Woods 6-10 2-4 3 15
J. Gulley 5-9 1-1 5 11
Delaney 2-2 1-2 1 6
Karle 2-6 0-1 2 5
A. Gulley 1-3 1-2 2 3
Duckwyler 0-1 2-2 0 2
TOTAL 23-44 13-23 23 65
FG Pct.: .63.6 FT Pct.: 56.5. 3-pointers: 6-18 (Sellars 3-8, Delaney 1-1, Woods 1-2, Karle 1-3, Duckwyler 0-1, J. Gulley 0-1, A. Gulley 0-2). PF: 11 Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 9
RUSSELL 17 20 13 13 — 63
ASHLAND 15 11 19 20 — 65
Officials: Gavin Ramsey, Kenneth Kegley, David Anderson