BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
ASHLAND Russell had fallen to its rival 16 times in the last 17 meetings, including a 47-42 setback to begin the new year.
After another strong defensive effort and double-digit efforts from Madison Darnell and Maggie Jachimczuk, the Lady Devils made sure that streak would end on Friday night after a 45-27 win over Ashland at Anderson Gym.
“We definitely talked about the last meeting,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. “We definitely didn’t come out with the way we wanted to play. We did talk about how it’s a rivalry game, so the kids were pumped up and ready to play.”
Jachimczuk did not play when the two teams met at the Marvin Meredith Classic on Jan. 3. The senior forward finished with 13 points and five rebounds with her array of weapons on the offensive end.
“She can hit the 3 and she can hit the mid-range (jumper),” Layne said. “She can post. She can drive it. She is a very versatile player. She has been playing really well as of late.”
The Kittens are no strangers to playing short-handed. Mykasa Robinson has only played four minutes this season with a knee and hand injuries. Savannah Cade has missed several games. Ashland is now without another offensive catalyst in guard Emma Fulton, who has been out of action the last two weeks with an inury to ger knee.
Kittens coach Bill Bradley was also pleased with his team’s defensive effort, but his offense is struggling to find any continuity with players moving into new roles.
“We have Miranda (Martin) playing point guard and she is a forward,” Bradley said. “She has accepted the role. She is really trying to help us out all she can. She has done a good job, but we are just so out of sync right now with no real point guards. That has really hurt us.
“I thought our defense was really good tonight. We held them to 45 points. We wanted to keep the game in the 40s. That’s all we can score right now, most of the time. Russell played good defense tonight, too.”
Russell (19-9) opened the contest with an 8-0 run and led 16-5 after a Rachel Michael 3 early in the second quarter. Darnell started to heat up in the frame against the Kittens’ zone. She scored seven points in the stanza as the Lady Devils took a 25-9 advantage into intermission.
Darnell led Russell with 18 points while pulling down seven rebounds.
“Putting Madison in the high post and putting Maggie in the low post was really effective tonight,” Layne said. “We were able to step up and hit a couple of 3s in the first half, which was the difference.”
The Lady Devils took care of business on the other end, holding the Kittens to 2-of-22 shooting in the first half.
“We have been talking about postseason defense,” Layne said. “In the first half, I definitely felt like it was there. We closed out on everything and made them take tough shots. Besides a couple of offensive rebounds, I thought we did a great job.”
Ashland (9-15) battled back to close the gap to 39-25 midway through the fourth quarter. Julia Parker capped a 7-2 spurt with a deep 3-pointers. The Kittens would only score two more points the rest of the way.
Martin hit three treys and scored a team-high 15 points. Parker added nine.
“She is our secondleading scorer,” Bradley said of Martin. “When she runs the point, it takes some of her shots away. In the second half, we told her to run the offense and score. She looked for her shot a little more and it worked out for her.”
Ashland closes out another strong regular season schedule with home games against Johnson Central today and Huntington St. Joe on Monday before traveling to East Carter on Thursday.
Russell’s final week is not an easy one either. The Lady Devils are at Boyd County Tuesday and host Huntington St. Joe on Thursday.