In March 3 Issue
The Russell County Lakers again became 16th district champions Friday night, defeating Metcalfe County on their home floor, 48-37.
The district title was coach Willie Feldhaus' fourth district championship is his six seasons and propelled the Lakers into a Thursday night matchup with Monroe County in the opening round of the 4th region tournament at Western Kentucky University.
"Obviously I'm very pleased with the outcome," Feldhaus said. "I kind of had some mixed feelings coming into it, playing a team for a third time and playing them on their home floor."
But Feldhaus being the coach that he is, told his team before the game that he would rather come into this game after having beaten Metcalfe twice than them beating Russell County twice.
"I don't buy into trying to beat a team three times that much," he said.
Sophomore Tyler Robertson led the Lakers in scoring with 24 and junior Blake Aaron finished with 10 points and three steals in the victory.
Russell County shot 39 percent for the game and used a 12-5 run in the third quarter to pull away from the pesky Hornets, led by 6-8 seniors Grant and Russell Kindred.
"Our kids believe at this point," Feldhaus said. "They've been around the program, some of them for four years, and they believe they can win in these types of situations and I'm just proud of how they played tonight."
The Lakers also got eight points and 13 rebounds out of eighth grader Nick Coffey and four points and six rebounds out of sophomore Barton Mann. Senior point guard Martin Cross finished with two points and three assists in the win. Hunter Best and Logan Smith also provided productive minutes for Russell County but did not score.
"I know it probably wasn't a beautiful game to watch but they were satisfied playing kind of slow and I have the type of kids that I think can win close ballgames," Feldhaus said. "I just didn't want them to get away from us."
He said he felt good about his team's chances at halftime despite being stuck on 21 points in what seemed like forever. In watching the game unfold, one thing was evident; the smaller Laker lineup wanted the ballgame more as they outrebounded the taller Hornet lineup 36-17.
Feldhaus said his team had the hustle, heart and desire to outplay Metcalfe in the facet of the game.
"The first couple of times we played them we just outrebounded them by a few but tonight it is double figures," he said. "The biggest thing I stress is not giving them easy second chance baskets and we gave them very few."
Feldhaus lauded the play of all his players, saying the win was a team effort and didn't want to single any one player out.
"I can't tell you anyone that sticks out in my mind that didn't play well," he said. "Everybody continued and that's what is so special about this group. We know we're not all scorers and everyone knows what their role is, be it rebound, taking care of the ball or defense."
The Lakers held the Hornets to just 33 percent shooting on the night and 28 percent in the second half and limited the Kindred twins to just 21 total points and 10 rebounds. Logan Matney had nine points for coach Tim McMurtrey's team in defeat.
The many Laker fans that traveled to Edmonton for the district tournament were not disappointed in the outcomes in both the girls and boys tournaments.
"When you go on the road and have more than the home crowd, what more can you say?," Feldhaus said. "I know it makes our kids proud to wear Russell County, it makes me proud to be the coach of a group of guys that get the support that they do."
The Lakers now face Monroe County in the 4th region tournament on Thursday night at 8 p.m. at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green.
"This is great but next week we have the expectation of winning games," Feldhaus said. "I think there is one thing that has changed in the six years I've been here, we're not just happy to be there anymore. Our kids think if they play well they are going to give themselves a chance to win. We know we have to play well to win."
Lakers Tyler Robertson, Nick Coffey, Blake Aaron, Barton Mann and Martin Cross were all named to the all-16th district tournament team.