RUSSELL Saddled with four fouls apiece, dynamite playmaker Shaelyn Steele and steady senior Kaeli Ross passionately cheered and coached from the bench as Russell teammates Jenna Adkins and Aubrey Hill rose to the occasion in their collective absence.

Trailing 41-36 following an 8-0 Boyd County spurt, Russell responded with a 12-1 charge en route to a 58-55 victory over the state-fourth-ranked Lady Lions at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium in a rematch of the 2020 16th Region Tournament finals — Russell conquered in that clash, too.

Adkins cashed in on a three-point play with 1:01 left in the third before giving way to Hill, who seized the spotlight in the fourth. Hill scored six points and Adkins had six during the pivotal surge that left Boyd County coach Pete Fraley smacking his head.

“I changed our defense,” he said. “Shaelyn was out, and I tried to put more pressure on them; that left them open on the backside. That wasn’t on my kids. That was my fault. I should’ve kept doing what we were doing, but I was trying to speed them up with her out of the game. That was a blunder on my part.”

Despite their starting point guard sitting for about half of the second half, Russell (9-4) just had six turnovers over the final 16 minutes. Coach Mandy Layne chalked it up to a practice drill prompted by a loss earlier this year.

“Honestly after the Butler game, we have a segment in practice where both groups — we line them up evenly — and we say, no more than three dribbles, and basically do some different things and take care of the ball. I think that really helped us tonight,” Layne said.

Steele still managed to lead all scorers with 26 points, going 8 of 15 from the floor and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. She chipped in five rebounds. She vacated the court at the 4:53 mark of the third, and returned with a little more than three minutes remaining in the fourth.

Hill posted 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Devils, who will visit Boyd County (7-1) next Thursday.

It was a foul-fest in the first half, as the officials blew the whistle 22 times. The teams combined for 23 turnovers in the first 16 minutes, too. 

Both teams’ benches were put to the task because of foul issues. Layne couldn’t say enough about her reserves, especially Josie Atkins, who drew a charge at a key juncture and grabbed four rebounds.

Jenna Adkins finished with 15 points for Russell, which will host Shelby Valley on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Russell outrebounded Boyd County, 36-24. 

Bailey Rucker led the Lady Lions on the glass with seven rebounds. She contributed eight points. Harley Paynter racked up a team-best 21 points, 10 of which came at the foul line. Audrey Biggs tallied 11 points. Hannah Roberts had eight.

Boyd County was just 3 of 14 from 3-point range. Because of COVID-19 protocol, it was the Lady Lions’ first game since Jan. 30.

“I told somebody before the game, my biggest concern was our shooting,” said Fraley, who added his team has logged just 3 1/2 hours in the gym over the last 26 days. “If you’re not in shape, your legs are the first thing to go. It’s OK, though. We’ll get back in the gym and be OK. Hat’s off to (Russell). They had a nice win.”

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asnyder@dailyindependent.com

RUSSELL  FG    FT     REB  TP

Steele        8-15  10-12         5       26

B. Quinn    1-6    0-0    4       2

Adkins        5-9    4-5    3       15

Ross 0-3    0-0    2       0

Hill    5-8    2-7    11     12

Sanders     0-1    0-0    0       0

Atkins         0-2    1-2    4       0

Barfield      0-0    0-0    0       0

A. Quinn    0-0    0-0    1       0

Jachimczuk         0-4    2-2    1       2

Team                   4

TOTALS    21-48                  19-28         35     58

FG Pct.: 43.8. FT Pct.: 67.9. 3-Pt. FG: 1-12 (Steele 0-2, Sanders 0-1, B. Quinn 0-3, Adkins 1-1, Ross 0-2, Jachimczuk 0-3). PF: 17. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 17.

BOYD CO.         FG    FT     REB  TP

Whitmore   0-2    3-5    3       3

Rucker       2-6    4-4    7       8

Paynter      5-10  10-13         6       21

Biggs         5-12  1-2    2       11

Roberts      3-6    0-0    1       8

Caldwell    0-1    1-1    1       1

Opell 0-0    0-0    0       0

Neese        0-1    0-0    0       0

Woods       0-0    0-0    0       0

Jordan       0-0    2-2    2       2

Team                   2

TOTALS    15-38         21-27         24     55

FG Pct.: 39.5. FT Pct.: 77.8. 3-Pt. FG: 3-14 (Rucker 0-3, Neese 0-1, Paynter 1-5, Roberts 2-4, Biggs 0-1). PF: 21. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 21.

BOYD CO.         18     9       14     14     —      55

RUSSELL  18     10     11     19     —      58

Officials: McKissick, Sutton, Sowards.

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