Russell uses defense to drop Mason




RUSSELL Russell’s defense and Rachel Michael’s slick 3point shooting made up for the team’s offensive shortcomings Monday night.

The Lady Devils turned away Mason County, 41-36, in a physical defensive battle at Marvin Meredith Gymnasium.

Offense proved to be a struggle throughout in the matchup of 10-6 teams — except for Michael’s catch-andshoot 3-pointers.

The senior guard buried four of them from the corner, going 4-for-5 beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 14 points.

Michael said she had been going through a shooting dry spell recently before finding her groove in the make-up game — originally scheduled for last week.

“(Sunday) she was draining them left and right in practice,” coach Mandy Layne said. “I think Rachel is one of the best shooters in the 16th Region. She definitely got in rhythm tonight and kept her confidence.”

The Lady Devils needed it on a night when they committed 20 turnovers and also had a tough time making baskets and fourth-quarter free throws.

Defensively, however, Russell held the Lady Royals to 33-percent shooting while helping force 18 turnovers.

“They were very physical,” Michael said. “It was just a good win against a quality opponent.”

The score was tied 22-22 at halftime. Mason County managed only three baskets the rest of the way — the last one a 3-pointer with five seconds left and the outcome decided.

“Just two teams really battling,” Layne said. “It was definitely one of our best defensive games. I’m happy with our mental and physical toughness tonight.”

 Mason County is a team in transition after losing eight seniors that scored 5,000 career points. The current squad is relying on intensity as the offense comes around.

“We only returned two that were in the rotation,” Lady Royals coach Brad Cox said. “I like my team. We are going to take some lumps. Hopefully games like this will get us ready for the rest of the season.”

Cox was expecting a physical contest against Russell.

“They play that way and are well-coached,” he said. “Our girls were prepared. We didn’t execute at times and Russell had a lot to do with that. We had some good looks on 3-pointers but couldn’t make them (2for-16).”

The opposite was true for Michael, who opened the second half by connecting from the corner to put the Lady Devils in front to stay. A few minutes later, she splashed another 3-ball after a long Russell possession that included three Mason County fouls.

The visitors stayed in striking distance — aided by Russell’s eight missed free throws in the final period. But Madison Darnell dribbled through full-court pressure and found Michael open for a layup to make it 38-32 with 1:36 remaining.

Mason County often double-teamed Darnell, who Friday scored her 2,000th career point. Eight of her 12 points Monday came at the foul line and she also pulled down 10 rebounds. In addition, Darnell and teammate Aubrey Hill combined for three blocked shots.

Kara Moran led Mason County with 11 points. Alexis Reed added nine.

Russell is back in action tonight at Spring Valley.

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