BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Russell’s Maggie Jachimczuk passes against Ashland defensive pressure on Monday in the 16th Region Tournament quarterfinals.
HAN WANG | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
MOREHEAD The Mykasa mystery was solved early in the first quarterfinal of the girls’ 16th Region Tournament.
However, Ashland could not figure out the conundrum of stopping Alexis Maynard in crunch time.
The Russell senior accounted for seven points in overtime to propel the defending region champions in their first test to a 51-45 victory at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Monday night.
Maynard said she cranked up the intensity because she did not want it to be her final time on the hardwood.
“Just taking it in and realized that if we lose, it’s my last game,” Maynard said. “I just tried to step up and do what I could because I hadn’t done anything early on in the game.”
With the Lady Devils trailing 42-39 in regulation, Madison Darnell drained a long 3 from the wing with 24 seconds remaining to extend the contest. Maynard connected on two free throws then absorbed the contact for a layup to stake Russell to an early 46-42 advantage in overtime.
Darnell added two more at the charity stripe and Maynard supplied three more as the Lady Devils outlasted its rival to advance to Friday’s first semifinal game against East Carter.
The Lady Devils are very familiar with the surroundings after last year’s postseason success. Coach Mandy Layne said that experience played a pivotal role on Monday night. It helped Russell (22-11) win its first game of the year (1-4) that was decided by two possessions or less.
“It played a huge role,” Layne said. “Madison Darnell was just clutch.
She stepped up and nails a huge shot. We played great defense. I am just so happy for Alexis Maynard to come in there in overtime and hit those big shots and free throws for us.”
Added Maynard: “(That experience) helps us in those types of situations because we are used to it from last year’s tournament,” Maynard said. “We were in those situations where we had to fight back like we did tonight.”
Ashland’s Mykasa Robinson has only seen playing time in Morehead this season. She entered the game at first media timeout — her first game-time action since suffering a hand injury five minutes into a game at Rowan County on Dec. 30. She sat out the first month of the season recovering from a knee injury.
Ashland coach Bill Bradley didn’t know his star guard would play when they arrived in Morehead.
“Her parents reached the doctors and they told me she could play three minutes before warmups,” Bradley said.
“I had no idea. … We decided then she could play. She played fantastic. It was just a pick-meup for the rest of the girls knowing she was going to play.”
Miranda Martin has excelled in Mykasa’s position during her absence. That didn’t change with the return of Robinson. Martin led the Kittens with 18 points. She hit four treys, her final shot from long distance gave Ashland a 39-36 lead with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter.
“Miranda wanted to know who was going to play point guard,” Bradley said. “She has been playing it for two months. Mykasa said, ‘You keep the point.’ It was a pretty easy adjustment. Mykasa can play all five positions.”
Layne said Mykasa’s return was a part of Russell’s preparation since the draw was announced on Saturday morning.
“She is a top-15 player in the country, even at 75-80 percent,” Layne said. “Not only does she bring her own energy, she boosts the energy of those other kids, too.”
Darnell netted the Lady Devils’ final six points of the fourth quarter. After the Kittens’ missed 3 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes of regulation, Darnell splashed in a wing 3 to tie the game at 42-42.
“She likes to drive, but she can also shoot the 3,” Layne said. “The defense is always up on her. But where I was so impressed with her tonight was her defense.
She did an awesome job on (Julia) Parker tonight.”
Darnell had a gamehigh 19 points. Maggie Jachimczuk added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Maynard netted 10.
After a season of adversity, the future looks bright for Ashland (1020). The Kittens return multiple players that gained valuable experience due to the injuries of several key players.
Parker and Robinson each finished with 11 points for the Kittens.