BY RAY SCHAEFER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Russell’s Madison Darnell drives into the Rowan County defense on Tuesday. The senior went 9 of 9 from the floor and collected 20 points.
BAYLEE BOOTH | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
MOREHEAD It was early in Tuesday’s 16th Region opening-round game when Russell’s Rachel Michael stole a pass from Rowan County.
Michael converted the ensuing layup, and a few minutes later, the Lady Devils’ Madison Darnell drove down the middle of the free-throw lane and instead saw Kaeli Ross in the right corner. Ross knocked down the 3.
The aforementioned vignettes were among manifold reasons Russell overwhelmed the Lady Vikings, 67-38, in the first round of the 16th Region Tournament at Morehead State University’s Johnson Arena.
“Team effort, it was definitely a team effort,” Ross said.
The Lady Devils meet defending champion Boyd County — a 73-48 winner over East Carter — in the semifinals at approximately 8:15 p.m. Friday.
Boyd County won two close regular season games — 75-72 Nov. 30 in Summit and 74-67 Feb. 13 in Flatwoods.
Savannah Wheeler led Boyd County with 36 and 27 points, respectively, in those meetings.
Tuesday, Wheeler led the Lady Lions with 27 points, Harley Paynter added 13, and Emma Borders chipped in with 10.
“Diversified” is a synonym for manifold, you can apply it to just about everything Russell did.
Start with Darnell. She hit all nine of her shots, scored 20 points, grabbed five rebounds, served three assists and stole four passes.
Continue with Michael because she was 3 of 5 from 3-town. “That’s usually my role,” she said.
Defense was next because the Lady Devils: kept Rowan County from driving to the basket; converted 21 Rowan County turnovers into 27points; intercepted 13 Lady Viking passes (Ty Mitchell led with four); and harried Rowan County into 27.3-percent shooting (12 of 44, including 3 of 19 from long distance).
“Our defense has worked well all year,” said Russell coach Mandy Layne. “So I was just really happy with our execution of our halfcourt man defense. I really thought we made it difficult for them to get off their shots, and once we kinda frustrated ’em, I think they started rushin’ things and speedin’ up and (we) made it difficult for them.”
There was lots of offense, too: a 42-12 lead in points-in-the-paint; an 18-4 advantage in fastbreak scoring; and 54.7 percent from the field (29 of 53).
Rowan County finished at 19-11. After coach Ed Jones thanked Mandy and David Rose for letting him coach their daughters Kammie and Haley, he talked about laying foundations.
“I told our our girls, I said I had as much fun as I’ve ever had, ever, in coaching a team,” Jones said. “ … You have to start somewhere, and that foundation has started this season: 19 wins, (61st) district runner- up, 6-0 in the district regular season.
“You can’t just start at the top of the mountain. Now the foundation has been laid.”
The Lady Vikings held a 2-0 lead for two minutes and 47 seconds because Angela Marcum grabbed two offensive rebounds before her stickback with 5:13 left in the first quarter.
Was Russell (23-9) upset? It surely looked like it.
Ross netted seven points, including a 3. Darnell added six, and Lakie Sanders and Michael contributed two apiece.
That’s a 17-0 run and a 4:54 stretch before Jada Rogers’ jumper with 19 seconds left in the period.
A Haley Rose 3 off Kammie Rose’s assist pulled the Lady Vikings to 30-18 late in the second stanza. Russell by as much as 65-32 late in the fourth.
“They had three girls that are bigger than any on our team at all,” Jones said. “ … You’re playin 17-, 18-year-olds with 13-, 14-year-olds.”
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