BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
GRAYSON Russell produced another episode of The “Lake” Show in Grayson on Wednesday night.
Junior Lakie Sanders finished with a game-high 20 points as the Lady Devils used a second-half surge to secure a 49-34 win over East Carter.
Russell coach Mandy Layne said the effort Sanders puts into rehearsal is starting to show off in primetime.
“You just see her confidence growing,” Layne said. “We are finding her in really good spots and she is finishing. She is starting to get the confidence she shows in practice and it is coming over into games. I couldn’t be more happy for her because she has worked really hard in the offseason to get better.”
Sanders tallied 12 points in the second half, including six during a stretch that increased the Lady Devils’ margin to double-digits at the start of the fourth quarter. Layne wants Sanders to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
“We have been getting on to her to do that,” Layne said with a smile. “I’ve told her, ‘We you get one-on-one, you’re going to make a nice post move (and score). She is doing a nice job inside and hitting tough shots.”
East Carter coach Hager Easterling took notice, as well.
“She has really improved her shot and her touch around the basket,” Easterling said. “A lot of that was her having improved and us doing a really poor job of guarding her. She took advantage of every situation. She has turned into a nice player for them.”
The Lady Raiders trimmed the deficit to 33-27 midway through the third stanza after eight straight points, but could only record seven more points the rest of the way.
Easterling’s young squad is still trying to find that consistency to produce a solid four quarters.
“That has been the way we have played all year,” Easterling said. “We can’t sustain that focus and level of play for 32 minutes that you have to have to beat a good team. … Just like on an out-of-bounds play, we see a teammate get screened and we don’t talk and we don’t help. Russell got 80 to 90 percent of the loose balls. We just can’t sustain that level of fight and we have two more weeks to work on it and get it done.”
Taylor Hall led East Carter with nine points.
Markita Gamsby added seven. Hannah Gallion netted eight points and eight rebounds after taking an elbow in Monday’s game against Lewis County and spending most of Tuesday getting treatment at the doctor. She connected on two big putbacks during the key 8-0 thirdquarter run.
“Hannah is always going to give you that fight and that aggressiveness,” Easterling said. “Taylor is going to give you that fight, too. The rest of us is kind of hit or miss. This possession is OK, but the next three aren’t. We have to have everybody (fighting). If we do that, we have a chance to beat some people.”
Russell (16-6) found success in the paint on the offensive end. Madison Darnell and Sanders were a combined 14 of 21 from the floor, set up with nice passes from their teammates. The duo scored 14 of the Lady Devils’ final 18 points of the first half as Russell held a 25-18 lead at the break.
Darnell had 14 points.
“I knew they couldn’t handle us inside,” Layne said. “We were struggling a little bit from the outside. (East Carter) was trying to slow it down so I told them, ‘Let’s make them play a little defense also.’ That’s kudos to Ty (Mitchell), Kaeli (Ross) and Rachel (Michael) for being selfless and looking inside.”
The Lady Devils have won 11 of their last 12 games. In that span, Russell has held its opponents to an average of 39 points a game.
“For three quarters (tonight), our defensive was great,” Layne said. “We had a couple of lapses on offensive rebounding. But to hold them to 34 points, that’s what we want to do every night.”