Russell blocks Kittens’ path
BY ROCKY STANLEY
Reprinted with permission from the editor of THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
RUSSELL Russell’s girls blocked Ashland’s bid for a road victory Friday night. The Lady Devils rejected 11 shots and point guard Shaelyn Steele hit six free throws in the final 34 seconds to secure a 44-38 win at Marvin Meredith Gym. Steele and Kaeli Ross each hit a 3-pointer for Russell down the stretch after Ashland wiped out a nine-point deficit in the second half. Julia Parker of the Kittens tied it at 28 with an inbounds layup midway through the fourth quarter. A little later Steele and Parker traded triples. “The biggest play of the game was Russell getting two offensive rebounds and kicking it out to Shaelyn for a 3,” Ashland coach Bill Bradley said. Ross answered Parker’s 3ball from the top of the circle with one of her own to make it 38-31 with 1:35 remaining. “Shaelyn and Kaeli both stepped up and hit really big 3s,” Russell coach Mandy Layne said. Malia Blevins followed with Russell’s final block, coming from the side of an Ashland shooter. The Lady Devils took advantage as Steele’s 15-footer extended the lead to seven points. “Our timing is good, and we’re so long and athletic,” Layne said of her team’s penchant for getting a hand on opponents’ shot attempts. Ashland's Carley Cullop dribbles against Russell's Shaelyn Steele on Friday night. As you saw, it was an ugly ball game. These are two of the better defensive teams in the region.” Ashland (14-8) shot only 27.5 percent but succeeded in carrying out its defensive game plan. “We wanted to keep Shaelyn from penetrating, and I think she had six points through three quarters,” Bradley said. “The other thing was to guard the 3-pointer. We did that, too.” Both teams finished with 14 field goals and four 3pointers. Russell went 12-for-15 on free throws, while Ashland made 6 of 7. “We got it inside a lot to Morgan (Bradley) and Mikayla (Martin),” the Kittens coach said. “For some reason, we couldn’t convert. I’ll leave it at that.” Steele scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the final quarter as Russell improved to 17-6. Hill had 12 rebounds and 10 points to go with her impactful defensive presence. Layne continues to be pleased with Hill’s progress in working her way back from a torn ACL. “I love seeing Aubrey get back to that,” Layne said of Hill’s shot-blocking prowess. “It’s her signature thing. She’s getting way more confident on both ends of the floor.” Parker’s 11 points led the Kittens, who dropped a five-pointer to Russell last month. “We have to learn to close the sale,” Bradley said. “We have enough seniors that it should happen.” Both teams are scheduled to be back on the court today. Ashland hosts Greenup County at 3:30, while Russell visits Pikeville for a 5 p.m. “It’s great we’re able to make them without fouling as we continue to work on our defensive positioning.” Six-footer Aubrey Hill and the dynamic Steele each supplied four blocks, while Kate Ruggles — another 6-footer — added two. Both teams struggled offensively for most of the night. It marked the 13th time this season Russell held an opponent below 45 points. “It’s a huge rivalry game,” Layne said. “Everybody comes and brings their best. start.