In Feb. 17 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
The 16-7 Russell County Lady Lakers secured the number one seed in district tournament play with a 54-38 win over the Metcalfe County Lady Hornets Saturday night in Edmonton.
With the victory, Russell County finished the district regular season undefeated at 6-0 and will play Cumberland County in the first round of the district tournament at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Metcalfe County High School.
"Our energy was high for this game and we did a much better job creating turnovers," Lady Laker coach Craig Pippen said following the win. "We still need to work on pressure defense without fouling. Our players need to understand that pressure defense and high energy doesn't mean go out there and hack away."
He said good defensive teams apply constant pressure without fouling. "We cannot afford to put teams on the free throw line if we want to be at our best," he said.
Pippen acknowledged the play of senior Lindsay Ramage, who had a nice game with 12 rebounds and 18 points. "Julie Wethington played much more aggressive in the second half and when LeeAnn Grider was on the floor she played well," Pippen said of the two starters who were benched for much of the first half with foul trouble.
"Blair Hoover and Regan Helm did a much better job defensively for us and looked to score when LeeAnn and Lindsay were not available," he said.
Russell County shot 39 percent from the field in the win while holding coach Peter Distefano's Lady Hornets to just 33 percent shooting on the night. The Lady Lakers owned the glass as well, outrebounding Metcalfe County by 12, 32-20. The Lady Hornets also turned the ball over 14 times on the night, something that the Lady Lakers were also able to capitalize on.
Wethington finished with 12 points while Grider ended the game with 11 points. Regan Helm added five points for Russell County, Blair Hoover finished with four points and three assists and Madison Loy ended the game with two points.
"Our bench came in and played hard," Pippen said. "This was a nice win for us to clinch a one seed and go undefeated in our district. Now we have to improve and get ready for postseason play."
On Friday night, the Lady Lakers fell to Adair County in Columbia, 54-49, after cutting a Lady Indian lead from 16 points down to two points before finally falling in the game's final minutes.
"This was a game where Adair County outplayed us for two and a half quarters," Pippen said. "We didn't bring the energy until late in the third quarter when we were down by 14. We dug ourselves a hole and we couldn't get over the hump down the stretch."
LeeAnn Grider finished with 25 points in the loss and the Lady Lakers allowed Adair County to shoot 48 percent from the field on the night. The Lady Indians were led in scoring by McKenzie Martin with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Pippen said he thinks his players and coaching staff now understands that when they do not play or coach with high energy the team is average at best.
"Average doesn't win championships," he said. But after the statement win on Saturday against Metcalfe County, it looks as if his team got the message.