BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
GRAYSON It was a battle of wills on Monday night in a rematch of last year’s 16th Region title game.
According to East Carter coach Hager Easterling, Russell had it. The Lady Raiders did not.
“We just had no will to get anything done,” Easterling said. “… We are not a team that has a lot of will to get things done when things are difficult on us. That is why Russell won the game tonight. You have to compliment them for that. They just had more will to get rebounds, go get loose balls and execute on offense.
“Right now, we are just a team that wants things to come easy.”
The Lady Devils overcame foul trouble and pulled away with a fourth-quarter surge to defeat East Carter, 63-48, in the Eastern Kentucky Conference Tournament semifinals at Harold L. Holbrook Complex.
Russell’s Maggie Jachimczuk had a game-high 28 points to go along with 14 rebounds for a double-double. Madison Darnell added 12 points and 10 boards after spending most the second half in foul trouble.
Rachel Michael splashed in three 3s to finish in double figures with 11.
Russell entered the final stanza with a three-point advantage but outscored the Lady Raiders 20-8 in the closing eight minutes, including 10 of the last 14 points. Coach Mandy Layne credited the play of her bench during the stretch run, bridging the gap until the starters could return.
“We had some big-time subs step up in (Kaeli) Ross, (McKenah) Morris and (Lakie) Sanders,” Layne said. “I was just so proud of them. When Alexis and Madison came back in, they did what a veteran team does and made some plays down the stretch. They took care of the basketball and more importantly, what can you say about our defensive tonight.”
Russell relents four combined field goals from Mayo-Hall pair
East Carter (2-1) hit a frosty 28 percent from the field, connecting on just 14 of its 50 field goal attempts. Easterling said his team was in a rush on the offensive end all night long.
“We could have played the whole second half with a 10-second shot clock and never got a violation,” Easterling said. “I turned around to the coaches with about three minutes to go in the game and said, ‘Have we had a possession yet where we had more than one pass before we shot the ball?’ … We are just so impatient.”
Ty Mitchell returned from injury for Russell after taking an elbow to the forehead in last Thursday’s game against Boyd County. Layne said she was cleared to play Monday morning, good news for the Lady Devils because of the junior’s defensive
prowess. “After the first day, she had a pretty bad headache,” Layne said. “But we lucked out when she passed the concussion test (on Monday) and what a great job she did on (Kristen) Mayo. She did an awesome job.”
Mayo and Haley Hall reached double figures with 10 and 12 points, respectively, but the duo was held to a combined 4 of 28 from the field.
Mitchell and Michael were instrumental for Russell during a stretch in the third frame. After Darnell departed the game with her fourth foul, the Lady Devils went on a 10-1 run to take a 43-33 lead. Mitchell capped off a fastbreak with an and-1 to start the spurt. She added a bucket on the next possession and Michael nailed a corner trey to give Russell (3-1) a double-digit lead.
“Rachel and Ty are really good basketball players,” Layne said. “They get overshadowed by a couple of our players, but they are good players. They are veterans and they stepped up for us tonight.”
The physical contests featured 39 fouls. Darnell and Jachimczuk set the early tone with 17 of Russell’s 18 first-quarter points.
“Maggie played like the Player of the Year tonight on both ends of the floor,” Layne said. “She had some huge blocks. Offensively, really posted up and played well. Madison’s confidence is continuing to grow. Each game she continues to get better.”
East Carter battled back to take its first lead on Harley Paynter’s 3 with five seconds left in the first half. The Lady Raiders took a 29-28 advantage into the locker room at halftime. They held the margin once more at 32-31 after Hall connected from behind the arc to begin the third quarter, but it was the last time East Carter had the lead.
Russell will meet Rowan County in the EKC finals at East Carter on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Rowan Co. 64 W. Carter 55
Rowan County fought off a pesky West Carter team to earn a spot in the EKC finals.
The Lady Vikings placed three players in double figures. Angela Marcum had 20 points. Allyson Callahan added 17 and Promise Cross finished with 10.
West Carter was playing without two starters in Becca Nolan and Madison Hanshaw. The Lady Comets cut the deficit to four late in the game but Rowan County finished the contest with the final five points.
West Carter was led by Ragan Adkins with 15 points. Allie Stone recorded 14 and Kallie Burchett netted 10. The Lady Comets hit nine 3pointers.
W.CARTER 1214 13 16— 55 ROWANCO. 17 10 16 21 — 64
West Carter (55) — Burchett 10, Ziegler 6, Bear 8, Adkins 15, Stone 14, Gilliam 2. 3-point FGs: 9 (Burchett 2, Bear 2, Adkins 3, Stone 2) FT: 4-4. PF: 17.
Rowan County (64) — Callahan 17, Rose 9, Jones 2, Cross 10, Marcum 20, Blevins, Fielding, Rogers 6. 3-point FGs: 2 (Rose 2) FT: 10-21. PF: 8.