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Steele shows the way; Red Devils secure win over Kittens

Feb. 13—RUSSELL — Russell honored Shaelyn Steele before its game with Ashland.

Coach Mandy Layne presented her star point guard with two ceremonial basketballs, one for her 2,500th point and the other for her 1,000th career rebound.

It also shared another significance.

Layne wants the ball in Steele's hands, especially down the stretch in big games. She displayed that late-game poise and production on Monday night.

The senior, and the Red Devils' all-time leading scorer, added 35 points to her career total, including the final 19 Russell points, to propel her team to a 57-47 win over the Kittens at Marvin Meredith Gym.

"She likes the big moments," Layne said. "The bigger the stage, the better. It's just the way she is. I knew that she would be ready. She was really locked in tonight. She really took care of the ball down the stretch and for the entire game."

Russell's lead hovered around 10 points for the entire second half. Ella Sellars splashed a 3 late in the third quarter to close Ashland's deficit to 40-32 but Steele ended the frame and opened the fourth with nine straight points to move the Red Devils' advantage back to 51-34.

The Kittens made a final push and closed within seven points in the final minute. After a Gabby Karle bucket, they called a timeout but were informed that they did not have one and were charged a technical foul. Steele made three final free throws to salt the game away.

Bella Quinn hit from long range and Hannah Sanders scored a layup midway through the third frame. Steele would be the only Russell player to dent the scoreboard the rest of the way.

With the postseason two weeks away, Layne was pleased her team could find a way to grind out a victory.

"I thought we handled it really well," Layne said. "It's just those last few minutes that we want to clean up a little bit. Overall, we were able to go out and get a lead and maintained it for the entire game. ... I was proud of my kids and for the way they took care of business."

Ashland played its third straight game with its point guard and leading scorer, Kenleigh Woods. The junior suffered a knee injury in the opening seconds against Fleming County on Feb. 9.

Coach Stacy Davis said Woods continues to rehab the injury and remains hopeful she can return for the postseason. It took some time for the Kittens to settle into the game against the Red Devils. Ashland finished with 19 turnovers.

"When you lose your point guard, it's like losing your quarterback in football," Davis said. "When you lose that position, it changes your whole dynamic on the floor. You could tell tonight. We don't have 19 turnovers. You would have to add a couple of our games to get that. It's just settling down and taking care of the basketball. When you don't have a point guard to do that, some can look out of sorts and out of sync."

When you lose a floor leader, the adjustment process can be a grind as well. District rival Boyd County experienced a similar scenario after losing point guard Taylor Bartrum to a season-ending knee injury.

Unfortunately, the regular season is quickly coming to a close but Davis knows she has the talent and experience in place to stay on track.

"This is probably our most competitive game (with Kenleigh out)," Davis said. "Nothing against Fleming or Menifee but it's a different type of ball game coming in against Russell. It's just the mentality of getting them focused and believing in themselves. They can beat anybody with or without having Kenleigh on the floor."

Steele started the game just as she finished it. The guard stayed aggressive from the tip, scoring 16 points in the first quarter and tallied her team's final 11 of the frame to open the Red Devils' double-digit advantage.

Layne said she wanted to see the opponent at full strength. It also altered the game plan.

"We had to adjust a lot of our plans," Layne said. "We had been preparing for (Woods). We were preparing for the whole team with her on the floor. We had to make a few adjustments. I still wish we could have played them at full strength."

"I was really happy with how we guarded overall," she added. "I was happy with how we rebounded the ball tonight. We have been focusing on it. We really limited their second-chance points. We were able to keep them from getting out in transition. I think those were two big keys tonight."

Ashland (20-5) entered Monday night averaging 67 points a game but were in danger of their offensive total remaining in the teens at halftime. Jenna Delaney's putback off a missed free throw resulted in a 32-21 Russell lead at the break.

"It wasn't our game plan," Davis said. "Our girls can still push the ball up the floor. Kenleigh is the fastest one we have to get downhill but our other girls can do that too. It's what we tried to tell them. We don't want to be in the halfcourt. We play quick. They know how fast we play, but it's a matter of them having the confidence to get the ball down the floor that quick."

Quinn added nine points and a pair of triples for Russell (21-6).

Sellars led Ashland with 16 points. Karle tallied 13 points.

ASHLAND FG FT REB TP

Karle 5-9 2-2 3 13

J. Gulley 3-5 1-3 8 7

Sellars 6-13 2-2 2 16

Delaney 2-8 0-0 5 4

A. Gulley 2-7 1-2 3 5

Duckwyler 1-3 0-0 1 2

Thomas 0-1 0-0 1 0

Team 3

TOTAL 19-46 6-9 26 47

FG Pct: 41.3. FT Pct: 66.7. 3-point Fgs: 3-15 (Karle 1-4, Sellars 2-7, Delaney 0-1, A. Gulley 0-1, Duckwyler 0-1, Thomas 0-1) PF: 17. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 19.

RUSSELL FG FT REB TP

Steele 12-23 10-15 6 35

Quinn 3-10 1-2 3 9

Sanders 2-2 0-0 6 4

Darnell 0-7 5-6 3 5

Fitzpatrick 1-3 0-0 5 2

Oborne 1-2 0-0 3 2

Allen 0-0 0-0 1 0

Team 3

TOTAL 19-44 16-23 30 57

FG Pct: 43.2. FT Pct: 69.7. 3-point Fgs: 3-13 (Steele 1-3, Quinn 2-7, Darnell 0-2, Oborne 0-1) PF: 13. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 14.

ASHLAND 9 12 13 13 — 47

RUSSELL 20 12 14 11 — 57

Officials: Dave Anderson, Paige Hurst, Gavin Ramsey