BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RACELAND Between the boys’ and girls’ games of the 63rd District Tournament semifinal doubleheader on Tuesday, Lewis County boys assistant coach Scott Tackett peered at Lady Lions coach Jay Fite’s head and declared he’d spotted two newly gray hairs.
Fite, Tackett and every other coach involved in Tuesday’s elimination games might not want to inspect their noggins in the mirror too closely this morning. Lewis County’s girls topped Greenup County, 39-36, when Abby Pick blocked a Lady Musketeers 3-point try to tie in the final seconds.
The Lions boys made a bid to make it a Lewis County doubleheader sweep against Russell, leading 57-54 with just over three minutes to go. Then the Red Devils delivered a 13-3 run to pull away to a 7064 victory.
BOYS Russell 70 Lewis Co. 64
Bryan Groves is certainly glad he picked a certain Rose.
With the Red Devils in serious danger of going down to defeat in the district semifinals for the fourth consecutive season, Brandon Rose collected 15 points off the bench — 12.5 more than his season per-game average — on 5-for-6 shooting from the field.
Not bad for a player who almost wasn’t even a Red Devil.
“I’ll be honest with you and I haven’t told many people this, but he was kind of on the chopping block at the beginning of the season,” Groves said. “We didn’t know if he was gonna make the team. But he’s changed his body, he works his tail off every day, and good things happen to people like that.”
Consequently, good things will happen to Russell, too. Each Red Devil will play in their first district tournament final and will take the Johnson Arena floor for the first time next week in the 16th Region Tournament.
“This means the world to us,” Rose said. “I’m just glad to step up and help the team, just make sure this wasn’t the seniors’ last game.”
Lewis County came back from six points down on Rose’s 3 30 seconds into the fourth quarter to lead, 55-51, with 4:45 to play. The Lions were still up, 57-54, after two of Isaac Kelly’s 34 points with 4:09 to go.
But beginning with Ryan Stump’s offensive board and putback with 3:05 remaining, the Red Devils rattled off a 13-3 burst to stretch their lead to seven in the final minute. That was one of Stump’s 10 rebounds.
“Hey, it’s about time we get one of those runs, because everybody’s making them on us. That’s all I know,” Groves cracked. “It came down to buying in and guarding on the defensive end.” The Lions made only one field goal for a span of 4:21, during which time they went from up three points to down seven.
Lewis County coach Joe Hampton recalled the theme of a late timeout.
“One of the things we discussed in the timeout was, we’ve got the lead, we don’t have to be in a hurry,” Hampton said. “I think the band was really loud and they must not have heard me, because we played in a hurry down that stretch with the lead.
“You can look at a couple quick shots, couple turnovers — all this is in that span when (Russell was) making their run — missed box-out on a free throw, backdoor cut where they got an and-1. ... We did basically anything and everything we needed to do to allow them to get back to the lead, and once they got it, we settled for quick 3s. I thought we panicked a little bit, where they stayed poised.”
Ethan Raby scored 18 points, Bobby Hale dropped in 11 and Landon Brewer totaled 10 for Russell (13-17), which faces Greenup County in Friday’s district final.
Kelly had nine rebounds to go with his 34 points for the Lions (9-21). Tay Offutt delivered 15 points.
LEWISCO. 17 9 17 21—64 RUSSELL 12152122—70
Lewis County (64) — Kelly 34, Offutt 15, Ripato 7, Wallingford 2, Ellis, Ruckel 2, Wright 2, Robersion 2, O’Keefe. 3-Pt. FG: 3 (Kelly 2, Offutt). FT: 13-20. Fouls: 23.
Russell (70) — Raby 18, Hale 11, Brewer 10. Stump 9, Clark 7, Rose 15, Whitt. 3-Pt. FG: 4 (Rose 3, Raby). FT: 20-35. Fouls: 18.
GIRLS Lewis Co. 39 Greenup Co. 36
Tuesday’s was the fourth straight Lady Lions-Lady Musketeers game decided by five points or fewer.
“Honestly, this game will make you sick if you let it bother you too much,” Fite said of the elimination round of the district tournament. “We know this is the pressure game.”
Fite’s insides might not agree, but thus, it seemed fitting the game wasn’t decided until its final play.
Greenup County got the ball, training 39-36 after Pick drained both ends of a 1-and-1 with 9.1 seconds to go. The Lady Musketeers sought to spring Gracie Haywood for a try to tie — or for three shots at it.
“We knew with Gracie being one of our better 3-point shooters, they’d be up on her hard,” Greenup County coach Tyson Phillips said. “We were trying to draw a foul, and sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.”
Pick blocked Haywood’s shot.
“My thought was, do not let them have a 3, whatever you do,” Pick said. “Let them shoot a 2, but do not let them shoot a 3. Get out on all the shooters; make sure all my teammates do that too.”
So Lewis County broke Greenup County’s heart in the district semifinals for the second straight year — but gets past the pressure of its first elimination game.
“It does take the pressure off because now we’re the underdog. From now on, we’re the underdog,” Fite said. “That’s OK. Now, we relax and just go play. We are gonna try to compete.”
Pick and Gracie Yates shared game-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece. Pick was 8-for-8 at the line as part of the Lady Lions’ 15-for-18 showing.
Maggie Miller led the Lady Musketeers (13-13) with nine points. Greenup County reached .500 for the first time since 2010-11, which is also the last time it went to the region tournament.
Lewis County improved to 81 in district tournament semifinal games under Fite. The Lady Lions (19-10) meet Russell in Thursday’s district final.
LEWISCO. 61410 9—39 GREENUPCO. 7 8 13 8 — 36
Lewis County (39) — Pick 14, Yates 14, Frye 6, H. Evans, Cortez, Voyles 5, Applegate, Tully. 3-Pt. FG: 2 (Frye 2). FT: 15-18. Fouls: 13.
Greenup County (36) — Miller 9, Haywood 8, Valandingham 8, Hill 4, Bryant, Jackson 4, Zaph 3, Hannah, Brown, Robinson. 3-Pt. FG: 2 (Haywood, Zaph). FT: 10-16. Fouls: 17.