Boys 63rd opening round: Don't call it a comeback: Red Devils, Rimmer close out Rams with strong fourth frame

Feb. 27—LLOYD — A third comeback wasn't in the cards at the 63rd District Tournament opener.

The season trilogy between Russell and Raceland concluded at the Greenhouse on Monday night. In the previous two meetings, the Red Devils emerged victorious after withstanding a Rams rally in the first game then supplied one of its own to pull out a three-point win on their home court.

With its season on the line, Raceland showed signs of regrouping in the second half and cut a double-digit deficit to six by the end of the third quarter.

One thing eluded the Rams' comeback efforts. They had to deal with Caleb Rimmer.

The freshman forward scored seven of the Russell's first nine points of the fourth quarter and Elijah Neel salted the game away with the final 14 in the Red Devils' 64-53 win.

"We talked in the huddle that defense would be our way to sustain things until we got back in our rhythm," Russell coach Derek Cooksey said of the discussion with his team before the final quarter. "I thought we stopped settling. We got the ball back in Caleb's hands, we got some stuff at the basket and Elijah did a great job finding open people around the rim."

"We didn't hit opportune shots at times," he added, "but I thought in the fourth we showed a lot of maturity not to settle."

Russell opened the fourth quarter with possession and put the rock in Rimmer's hands at the top of the circle. He found a lane to the basket and finished the play with an and-1. He added a pair of free throws and short jumper to get the Red Devils' lead back to 45-35 with 4:51 remaining.

"Coach said let's come out here and get a good shot and not take our foot off the gas," Rimmer said. "Let's go out and play good defense. We can win this game. I got the and-1 and that seemed to get us going."

Peyton Ison completed a three-point play for the Rams early in the final frame but they would not record another field goal until the 1:45 mark when Holden Topping made a layup off a steal.

"Noah Quinn has guarded Christian Large in all three games this year," Cooksey said. "Large is one of the best scorers in the region. ... I really challenged Noah on defense because he's not concerned with offense. He exerted a lot of energy and focus. I am proud of him. ... It was a collective team effort."

The shots were not falling early on either side. The atmosphere of a district tournament creates a different kind of pressure that teams don't face in the regular season. An emphasis was put on the defensive end of the court.

"I know (my team) needs me each and every night to defend," Quinn said, "and to be a leader. I'm usually guarding their best player."

"Our main thing was defense," he added. "We really weren't hitting our shots in the first quarter so we had to play well on defense to keep us going and keep the lead."

Neither team could find the range in the opening quarter. They were a combined 1 of 16 from the 3-point line. Rimmer seemed to steady the Red Devils in the second stanza after connecting on two long-range baskets and a two-handed dunk. The forward supplied 12 points in the second eight minutes of the game and the Red Devils held a 28-17 lead at intermission.

"He played in his third district tournament and he's only a ninth grader," Cooksey said. "I challenged our guys defensively but we knew that he had to touch it (on offense). We did a good job being patient and made sure to get him touches and feed off him. He stepped up huge. He's more than capable of hitting the 3. Whenever he's left open, I've told him to knock them down."

Rimmer knows any one of his teammates can make an impact on the court but he felt he had to step up his game to guide the Red Devils through.

"What happened at home last time we played them couldn't happen again," Rimmer said. "It's a district game this time. It's win or go home. I think we wanted it more. I knew I had to come out and give our team some energy. Once we got it going, we weren't going to let it go."

Rams coach Joe Bryan never feels his team is out of a game. Raceland's run came in the third quarter after a pair of baskets from Connor Thacker and another from Large in the lane shrank the Red Devils' advantage to 35-29 heading into the fourth.

The Rams ended the season how they started it. Fighting and battling.

"I am definitely proud of this group," Bryan said. "I love these guys. They play hard every night. Effort is something we rarely have to coach. It always makes for a fun season. It's probably the quickest season of my career. I really appreciate my assistant coaches as well. It's been a lot of fun with this group."

Raceland (16-15) couldn't overcome its early shooting woes. The numbers did rebound in the second half but the Rams were 19 of 48 from the field and only 3 of 21 from beyond the arc.

"We shoot it poorly but I didn't think we took very good shots," Bryan said, "especially in the first half. In the first quarter, it seemed like we shot all 3s and nobody got downhill to the basket. I thought that hurt us pretty bad early."

Thacker produced a double-double for the Rams with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Large added 14. The senior guard was honored before the game for reaching his 1,000th career point last week.

Tatum Fleming hit big shots for Russell (17-11) in the fourth quarter and finished with 11 points. Neel secured 14 points. Rimmer produced a game-high 25 points and 18 rebounds.

"We have a lot of faith in him," Quinn said of Rimmer. "When he starts making shots, he changes the whole offensive outlook. They have to step out and guard him. It makes us a lot better."

The Red Devils secure a spot in the 16th Region Tournament next week and meet the Greenup County-Lewis County winner in Friday's district championship game.


Thacker 7-19 2-4 14 18

Topping 1-1 0-0 2 2

Large 4-12 3-3 1 14

Arnett 3-7 1-1 1 7

Sutton 3-4 0-2 6 6

Waller 0-2 0-0 1 0

Ison 1-3 4-6 0 6

Caines 0-0 0-0 0 0

Welch 0-0 0-0 0 0

Team 4

TOTAL 19-48 10-16 29 53

FG Pct: 39.6. FT Pct: 62.5. 3-point Fgs: 3-21 (Thacker 2-10, Large 1-6, Arnett 0-1, Waller 0-2, Ison 0-2) PF: 12. Fouled out: Arnett. Turnovers: 11.


Quinn 2-6 0-0 2 5

Neel 4-12 8-10 5 16

Rimmer 9-15 5-5 18 25

Pridemore 2-8 0-0 4 5

Fleming 4-10 2-2 5 11

Burgess 0-5 0-0 0 0

Benge 0-0 0-0 0 0

Hovanec 0-0 0-0 0 0

Kaczmarcyk 1-1 0-0 3 2

Burnham 0-0 0-0 0 0

Hewlett 0-1 0-0 0 0

Smith 0-0 0-0 0 0

Cordial 0-0 0-0 0 0

Team 3

TOTAL 22-58 15-17 40 64

FG Pct: 37.9. FT Pct: 88.2. 3-point Fgs: 5-24 (Quinn 1-5, Neel 0-3, Rimmer 2-4, Fleming 1-4, Burgess 0-4, Pridemore 0-4) PF: 10. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 7.

RACELAND 5 12 12 24 — 53

RUSSELL 10 18 7 29 — 64

Officials: PD Harris, Dave Anderson, Gavin Ramsey

(606) 326-2671 —