RACELAND Scott Tackett suggested Lewis County was going to be “very vanilla” with starting point guard Bailey Thomas out of the lineup Monday night in a visit to Raceland.
If the Lions' performance was vanilla, opponents should look out when they add the toppings to the mix as Lewis County finished with three players in double figures and shot 71.1% from the field to avenge a loss to the Rams eight days ago with a 76-65 victory at “The Palace.”
Kolby McCann led the way with 21 points, Logan Liles kicked in 20 points and 10 rebounds and Trey Gerike added 19, dropping 14 in the first half.
“It took a minute or two—actually a quarter—for us to fall into the roles that each kid had tonight with Bailey out,” Tackett said.
But once it fell into place, it was a well-oiled machine that erased a five-point deficit in the first quarter and took a 13-point lead to the break after a 16-2 Lions run.
Down 16-11 to start the second stanza, Levi Burriss sank a triple from the right corner that sparked the Lewis County (8-7) run, bookended by a Liles triple that forced a Raceland timeout.
“We ended up with Trey at the '1' a lot, and that’s good to see,” Tackett said of Gerike at the point. “That second-quarter run when (Kirk) Pence picked up his second (foul), we put the ball in Trey’s hands and went right at him. That was our game plan. Kirk is probably the only guy they have who could guard him well, so we were going to exploit that as good as we could and attack that. I’m all about attacking matchups.”
Gerike was locked in with 14 points in the first half and Tackett’s plan was to stay with the hot hand as long as he could.
“Trey has as much ability as anyone…he’s a top-10 kid in this region in my opinion when he plays to his ability,” Tackett said. “Trey is his own worst enemy, though. Sometimes he gets into his own head and sometimes if he doesn’t have success early, he checks out offensively and tries to do too much at times. He realized early on that he had it going and they were going to have a hard time guarding him and we just played through him and rode him for as long as we could.”
Rams coach Bob Trimble was less than pleased with his team's effort in the loss.
“Probably the first half was as bad of an effort as we have had here in a long time,” Trimble said. “It was embarrassing for our fans and embarrassing for everybody watching it. We are going to come in tomorrow and gets some guys' attention and correct some things, but I don’t think we are going to pick up a ball tomorrow at practice. Just pitiful effort overall.”
But as Raceland (5-6) turned up the pressure on Gerike out of the locker room, the Lions answered with Liles and McCann, who dropped 14 and 13, respectively, in the second half. The Lions opened up a 17-point lead off Liles's second triple of the night with 6:05 to play.
Raceland didn't go away quietly as a Pence stole a lazy inbound pass and finished with an easy layup to cut the lead to 10 with 3:46 to play, and another Pence bucket with 2:48 to go pulled the Rams within three at 64-61.
Pence led the Rams with 28 points and 11 rebounds, recording his third consecutive double-double.
However, the Rams got no closer than five the rest of the way and the Lions got the cherry on top to close the game after a McCann steal led to a thunderous dunk that brought everyone in red and blue to their feet.
“We have to figure out that we have to show up and be ready to compete,” Trimble said. “(Lewis County) went coast-to-coast about four times and shot layups and no one stepped in to stop the ball. We didn’t move the ball on offense, just kept driving gaps and turned it over and when you turn it over, it’s a layup. They get out and run and they were ready to play and they were down a man.
“Give them credit, they were the aggressor and made the plays. They guarded better than we did. They were tougher than we were mentally and physically and they deserved to win.”
With Thomas out due to a non-COVID-19 related injury, Tackett had little concern when he tabbed Hunter Jordan to make his first start on the road in a hostile environment. The senior responded with a career night in scoring and rebounds, scoring seven points and grabbing five boards.
“Knowing Bailey wasn’t going to be able to play and coach was looking to me, I took it as a challenge and I had confidence in myself,” Jordan said. “Like coach Tackett said, practice was going pretty well and I was working pretty hard. I just tried to step up and fill the void of what Bailey does on a normal nightly schedule."
Jordan’s first shot fell from downtown midway through the first, which he admitted helped settle the pregame nerves.
“I’m not going to lie, when I first stepped on the floor when the game started, I was a little bit shaky,” Jordan laughed. “My knees were a little bit weak. Just pregame jitters from my first start. Once I hit that 3 in the corner, it just came natural to me. My defense came to me because I personally think defense is my strong suit. But once that corner 3 went in, it all just came to me.”
As for the “vanilla” Tackett joked of after the win, he admitted he played things close to the cuff considering any Russell district win will lock in a Lewis County and Raceland rematch when the 63rd District Tournament kicks off at Raceland March 15.
“We didn’t press,” he said. “We used a soft 2-2-1 back to a 2-3 but we have a number of presses that we’ve worked on, but we didn’t put them in tonight. We ran maybe four sets all night and most of it was a five-out type of thing and attack and go off the dribble.”
The only woe Tackett had about the win was the Lions' shooting percentage from the foul line, going 8 of 16.
“If we ever get that fixed, we are going to be hard to get after,” Tackett joked.
FG Pct.: 71.1. FT Pct.: 50.0. 3-pointers: 4-9 (Jordan 1-2, Burriss1-1, Liles 2-4, Gerike 0-2). PF: 13. Fouled out: Spencer.Turnovers: 15.
FG Pct.: 38.3. FT Pct.: 73.3. 3-pointers: 8-24 (Floyd 4-12, Pence1-4, Newman 0-2, Broughton 3-6). PF: 17. Fouled out: None.Turnovers: 11
Officials: Charlie Graham, Tyler Maynard, Jeff Callahan.