In Dec. 23 Issue
Both the Russell County Lakers and Lady Lakers got off on the right foot in district play late last week as they defeated foes Metcalfe County and Clinton County at Laker Gym.
Thursday night saw the Lakers pull out a two-point overtime victory over the favored Hornets as sophomore Tyler Robertson led the team in scoring with 19 points and eight rebounds. Junior Blake Aaron added 18 points while 8th grader Nick Coffey tallied 14 points and seven rebounds.
"I told our kids I don't know how we do it," said Laker coach Willie Feldhaus. "We've found ways to win some close ones."
Feldhaus said his team showed a lot of heart in the win and did just enough of the little things to pull out the victory.
Sophomore Barton Mann scored four points and pulled down eight rebounds while senior point guard Martin Cross added one point and three assists.
The Lakers shot 39 percent from the field and held Hornet big man Grant Kindred to just 17 points and the Hornets as a team to shooting just 37 percent from the field. Russell County also controlled the ball well as they committed just four turnovers.
Coach Craig Pippen's Lady Lakers had an easier go Thursday, as they downed the Lady Hornets, 58-39.
"Metcalfe County is much improved this year," Pippen said. "It's always hard to prepare for them. They play a lot of 'Micky Mouse' defenses, 2-3, 1-2-2 trap wing, 3-2 and Box and I felt our girls did a nice job recognizing all the different defenses they threw at us and we executed our offenses for the most part."
It was a big game Thursday for sophomore Julie Wethington, who led the Lady Lakers in scoring with 20 points.
Sophomores LeeAnn Grider added 13 points and Regan Helm scored 11 points in the win. As a team, the Lady Lakers shot 43 percent from the field. Seniors Blair Hoover and Lindsay Ramage scored five points each while Tyla Bailey scored four points.
On Friday, the Lakers pulled out another tough victory over the visiting Clinton County Bulldogs, 57-48. While the Lakers shot just 32 percent to the Bulldogs' 35 percent, Russell County did just enough to pull out the win over a tough Todd Messer team. Robertson again led the Lakers in scoring with 21 points and was followed closely by Aaron with 16 points and Coffey with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Cross scored six points and hit all four of his free throw attempts. Senior Logan Smith scored two points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Feldhaus said he was impressed by the quickness of Messer's team, a team that is of a different breed than the brutes the Bulldogs had last season.
"I'm very happy to get two wins these last two nights," Feldhaus said following the game. "I told our kids they would be very disappointed after winning last night for us not to win tonight."
The wins moved the Lakers to 6-0 on the season heading into holiday tournaments and Metcalfe and Logan counties.
The Lady Lakers had little trouble with the Lady Bulldogs as they beat them by 30 point Friday night, 61-31.
"We had a productive week," Pippen said after the win. "Obviously, we are excited about opening district play with two wins." Pippen credited Hoover's 19 point performance on 8-11 shooting against Clinton County as a key to the victory.
"Clinton County did a nice job defending LeeAnn early," he said. "After we settled down and started executing, we were able to separate ourselves and finish with a big win. We definitely improved as a team this week."
Pippen said in regard to their offensive play, what impressed him the most is the fact that when Grider was being chased and denied the ball, he had some other players step up and make big plays.
"That's the difference between last year and this year's team," he said. "You can't take our leading scorer out of the game and expect us to fold. We now have five players who are capable of scoring in a variety of ways. That's what makes this team improved. Each position on the floor has improved."
Pippen said his team still needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball, especially blocking out and rebounding. "We are giving up too many second chance buckets," he said. Despite the issues, the Lady Lakers are standing at 6-1 on the season as they prepare to play in holiday tournaments in Campbellsville and Logan County.
Both the Lakers and Lady Lakers will now see how they react to tough competition at a neutral site these next two weeks.