BY MATTHEW SPARKS
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL Russell coach Mandy Layne is a fan of the new schedule at the Marvin Meredith Classic.
The Lady Devils haven’t found much success as an opening act at the event named after the legendary coach. The hosts fared much better in the finale with a total team effort as they dismantled Johnson Central, 63 28, on Saturday night. “I asked to play in the nightcap, hoping we would play better,” Layne said. “Obviously, it worked. We played great at 7:15 tonight.”
Russell opened the contest fully energized. Layne felt the start time would be more beneficial to her team.
“It puts us back to normalcy,” she added. “It puts us back in our routine. It’s great for all kids. I think that is the difference.”
Madison Darnell was her normal self. The senior poured in 24 points as she controlled the play in the paint. She posted eight points during a 19-4 second-quarter run that gave the Lady Devils a 3618 halftime lead.
“She will do anything you ask her to do,” Layne said. “Tonight, I was just so happy about her energy and her enthusiasm. It carried over on the floor. Every night she is the best player on the floor. She definitely showed it tonight.”
The Lady Devils turned up the transition game in the second frame, leading to easy buckets on the offensive end. It forced Johnson Central coach Darrin Rice to call consecutive timeouts in rapid succession.
“We weren’t ready to play tonight, for whatever reason,” Rice said. “We are young and we are inexperienced. We are not very physical and when you don’t come ready, it makes it that much worse. Russell is a very good basketball team. They are wellcoached and have a dynamic player in Darnell. We just got it handed to us tonight.”
Russell (8-5) has expanded its depth this season. The Lady Devils went nine deep and all supplied significant minutes to expand the margin.
Lakie Sanders netted nine points and Rachel Michael added seven.
Aubrey Hill had six points. McKenah Morris and Ashlyn Andre each supplied five off the bench.
“They all came in a did well,” Layne said. “It’s awesome when you put kids in there and don’t lose anything. It helps keep the starters fresh.”
Andre drained a triple to start a running clock late in the contest as the Lady Eagles managed just two points in the final quarter.
Ashley Belcher had eight points to lead Johnson Central (4-10).
“Our team defense was the best it has been all year,” Layne said. “On offense, we were really clicking. We were making some nice passes and finishing. I was just proud of my whole group tonight.”
BOYS Simon Kenton 77 Johnson Central 63
Simon Kenton’s shooting stroke provided plenty of warmth on a cold January afternoon in the third game of the day.
The Pioneers explored the Johnson Central defense as they shot 68.9 percent from the floor to pull away from the Golden Eagles for the victory.
The high numbers were helped by Zach Kelch’s performance around the rim. The 6-foot-9 senior hit six of his seven attempts and finished with 18 points.
Simon Kenton coach Trent Steiner said the big man needs to a point of emphasis in the offense going forward.
“If we don’t rely on that 3point line and get the ball inside, we’ll be fine,” Steiner said. “Our big kid hasn’t touched the ball enough for several games this year. He has to touch the basketball and tonight he got to the freethrow line. We have to do a better job getting him the ball.”
Johnson Central came out smoking the nets, as well. It shot 56 percent in the opening half. Each team held a fourpoint lead in the first two quarters. Bryson Hackney slipped the ball to Jacob Rice for his fourth 3 of the contest to beat the halftime buzzer. It gave the Golden Eagles a 34-33 advantage.
Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie said his team’s energy level wasn’t were it needed to be on the defensive end. It was a quick turnaround for the Golden Eagles after a double-overtime win over Belfry the night before.
“It was my fear that we wouldn’t get off to a good start,” McKenzie said. “Our defensive intensity wasn’t very good. We didn’t make them uncomfortable the whole game. Simon Kenton got easy shot after easy shot. It got their confidence up for 32 minutes. They have a good team.”
The Pioneers created some distance with a strong third quarter. Simon Kenton (10-4) finished the stanza on a 14-4 run to build a double-digit lead and seize control.
“That’s been our Achilles heel all year long, the third quarter,” McKenzie said. “I don’t know what it is. We talked about it at halftime. We came out and set a tone in the first three or four minutes of the third quarter. It’s our motto to win the third. … Their energy level picked up and ours didn’t” Kelly Niece led the Pioneers with 26 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Rice had 16 for Johnson Central (8-8).
S.KENTON 19142420— 77 J.CENTRAL 20 14 10 19 — 63
Simon Kenton (77) — Robinson 4, Niece 26, Hensley 8, Kitchens 6, Kelch 18, Krohman, Davis 5, Barnes, Hickey, Perry 8, Schwartz, Lair, Martin 2. 3point FGs: 5 (Niece 2, Davis, Perry 2) FT: 10-14. PF: 11. Turnovers: 12.
Johnson Central (63) — May 7, Rice 24, Vanhoose 14, Bentley 5, Ferrel 6, Davis, Adkins 2, Sartin-Slone, Hackney 2, Burton 3, Fairchild, Caudill, King, Slone. 3-point FGs: 5 (May, Rice 4) FT: 6-14. PF: 11. Turnovers: 7.
J.CENTRAL 12 6 8 2 — 28 RUSSELL 17191314—63
Johnson Central (28) — Castle 6, Blair 1, Scites 4, Belcher 8, Jarvis 5, T. Montgomery 2, F. Montgomery, Hopson, Fairchild 2. 3-point FGs: 0. FT: 1013. PF: 13. Turnovers: 18.
Russell (63) — Mitchell 5, Darnell 24, Ross 2, Michael 7, Sanders 9, Andre 5, L. Wallenfelsz, Picklesimer, Blevins, Morris 5, C. Wallenfelsz, Hill 6, Arthur. 3-point FGs: 2 (Mitchell, Morris) FT: 8-13. PF: 13. Turnovers: 8.