BY RAY SCHAEFER
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
VANCEBURG Quickly, name the first 16th Region girls basketball team to win its 20th game.
Is it Ashland or defending region champion Boyd County? No and no.
The correct answer: Russell. The Lady Devils, ranked third in The Daily Independent’s Northeastern Kentucky Prep Media Poll, won their 10th straight after Wednesday’s 63- 43 win at No. 10 Lewis County.
Lady Devils coach Mandy Layne hesitated to answer for a second when asked if she knew her team had improved to 20-6, as if she thought it was a trick question.
“I said, ‘Us’, yeah,” Layne said.
You don’t need any prestidigitation to pull off what Russell has done. The Lady Devils also have 19 consecutive games of 63rd District perfection against Raceland, Lewis County and Greenup County. (Russell's last loss was a 48-46 triple-overtime setback against Raceland on Jan. 9, 2016.) “Even though we graduate kids or whatever, other kids
step in and fill those roles,” Layne said. “And I think that’s really impressive.”
The Lady Devils didn’t need any trickery Wednesday, either — not when Madison Darnell scored 26 points and Lakie Sanders added 19.
Russell also stole 12 passes (Darnell had five) and forced 21 Lady Lion turnovers while surrendering just six.
Layne liked the 21 turnovers. “We finally got some pressure D, started getting in the passing lanes,” she said.
The Lady Lions were fiercely leonine after four minutes. Especially Jalyssa Cortez (12 points for the game), whose five points gave the Lady Lions 5-2 lead.
After trailing 29-24 at halftime, Lewis County (11-14, 2-4) pulled to within 32-31 early in the third on a Gracie Yates free throw. From there — a 46-37 Lady Devil lead after three quarters thanks to a 14-6 run.
“We fought and we attacked the basket,” Lewis County coach Jay Fite said. “ ... We made a couple soft passes, we didn’t step to some passes, and anytime you do that with Russell, they’re going to get a steal and go the other way and finish it.”