In March 3 Issue
The Russell County Lady Lakers repeated as 16th district champions Thursday night at Metcalfe County High School after a rousing 59-43 defeat of the homestanding Lady Hornets. It was the first district title repeat for the Lady Lakers in 27 seasons.
Russell County shot an amazing 50 percent from the field and outrebounded Metcalfe County 26-11 to bring home the district crown.
"I felt like our team came prepared to win," said Lady Laker coach Craig Pippen. "I sensed it in practice and I knew they were ready. Our guards did an outstanding job defending the perimeter and our post players defended the paint."
Sophomore LeeAnn Grider led the Lady Lakers in scoring with 23 points as she hit all 12 of her free throw attempts and also finished with three steals. Sophomore Julie Wethington also finished in double figures for Russell County with 15 points on four of seven shooting.
"I told them before the game it's not about what Metcalfe does, it's about what we do," Pippen said after the game. "I didn't want our team getting caught up in the variety of defenses they would face. I just wanted them to play our game and be the aggressor. I think we accomplished that."
Seniors Lindsay Ramage and Blair Hoover each had big games as Ramage finished with nine points and six rebounds and Hoover tallied six points and a team-high eight rebounds to go along with two steals. Freshman Madison Loy provided a spark off the bench for the Lady Lakers as she hit two of her three field goal attempts for four points. Sophomore starter Regan Helm, who was saddled with foul trouble for much of the game, scored two points but provided tough defense down the stretch for Russell County.
Senior Tyla Bailey and sophomore Amanda Cooper also played important minutes for Russell County but did not score.
"From an individual standpoint, I am about as proud of our three seniors as a coach can be," Pippen said. "Blair Hoover has stepped up and led our team this year and she also has backed it with her play. Lindsay continues to work as hard as anyone I have coached. Both have come so far in the past four years, it's amazing to think about. Tyla missed a year but she is just as valuable to our team as anyone. In fact, many of the improvements Lindsay has made can be credited to Tyla. The two of them beat and bang on each other every day in practice and that is what makes them as competitive as they are."
Russell County hit 21 of their 23 free throw attempts to further hamper the Lady Hornets chances of getting back into the game down the stretch. Metcalfe County finished shooting just 39 percent for the game and a 18-8 Lady Laker run in the second quarter really took the air out of Metcalfe County.
"LeeAnn Grider had an outstanding tournament," Pippen said of his point guard. "She plays her role to the tee and is one of the most unselfish ball players I have ever coached. Regan Helm and Julie Wethington did a great job for us stepping up their play in the tournament. Both of these girls have the ability to be top 10 players in this region with a lot of hard work. I am glad they have two more years to get there."
Pippen said to win the district championship two years in a row means so much to his seniors and the younger players.
"This accomplishment has gone from a dream to a standard," he said. "This is something we now expect to do each year. Our seniors have been to the region three out of the last four years and have won two district titles. They will always be able to look back on this and smile."
All five Lady Laker starters, Grider, Helm, Ramage, Hoover and Wethington, made the all-16th district team and all have the same goal of winning at E.A. Diddle Arena.
"Obviously, we are not done yet." Pippen said. "At the beginning of the season we set a goal to compete for a regional title. We have improved to the point where I think we can compete with the teams that seem to be at the top of the region year end and year out such as the Franklin Simpsons and the Bowling Greens."
Russell County now sits at 19-7 on the year with an unblemished 8-0 record in district play. They faced Glasgow on Monday night at Western Kentucky University's E.A. Diddle Arena. Results from that game can also be seen in this week's newspaper.
"We will prepare the best we can and aim high," Pippen said. "It's the only way we know."