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Getting defensive: Kittens outlast Red Devils, pull away for victory

Jan. 24—ASHLAND — Ashland fought their way to a victory over Russell Wednesday night in a game where both teams left the court knowing they had been through a battle.

Ultimately, Ashland came out on top, 53-47, despite entering the fourth quarter tied.

"We had the grit and the drive to know we want this win," Ashland coach Stacy Davis said. "The 'X' on our back is there from last year. I think we dug deep and pulled it out in the end. It was probably the worst offensive game we've had, but both teams are physical and we play a lot alike. We both get up and down the floor. It was a great challenge and a great win for us."

It was the first meeting between the two squads since the 16th Region Tournament last year when the Kittens edged out the Red Devils, 45-44.

"I think the fourth quarter, they made shots that we didn't," Russell coach Mandy Layne said of the difference maker in the close contest. "They made a couple of plays and were able to get out in transition. And we missed a couple of easy buckets there too."

Both teams started the game with the pedal down, but it was Ashland who was able to take advantage of the fast play.

With 2:25 to go in the opening quarter, Russell called timeout down 15-8.

Little changed after the break and the score was set at 16-10 to start the second quarter.

The Red Devils flipped the script before halftime.

Russell busted out a 9-0 run that had the Kittens calling a timeout of their own with 5:21 to go, trailing 19-16.

"We fight through adversity," Layne said. "I think we're tough. I felt like we kept the belief that we could beat them. We just fell a little short."

Out of the break, Ashland took advantage of some trips to the free throw line and a couple of ill-timed Russell turnovers to pull back ahead 21-19.

The game stayed even down the stretch with the Kittens taking a 25-23 lead into the locker room at the break.

Into the second half, Shaelyn Steele drained a 3-pointer to put Russell back ahead.

The Red Devils managed to stretch that lead out to 32-29 when Russell called a timeout at the 3:34 mark to avoid a jump ball turnover.

After the timeout, the Red Devils turned it over on the inbounds pass, which paved the way for Ashland to even things up.

"They just play with that grit," Davis said. "We saw it all last year. They don't quit no matter what. They can be up, or down, it doesn't matter. They don't quit."

Both teams played even to end the frame and the game was knotted up at 34-34 to start the fourth quarter.

Ashland had a quick 7-0 run to start the frame led by a Jaidyn Gulley bucket from long distance.

Steele and Quinn answered with 3s to make it 43-40, but that's as close as Russell could get.

A triple from Ella Sellars was followed by Steele's fifth foul during the physical contest. It took the wind out of the Red Devils' sails.

"I feel like we've played a ton of these," Layne said of the physicality of the game. "Our next few games will be brutal. Hopefully, we can continue to handle the physicality and be able to work on getting back cuts and be able to set good screens."

The 3-pointer from Sellars was her only made trey of the game.

The Red Devils got it back to a 49-45 deficit, but the clock was working against them.

Sellars made some clutch free throws in the closing moments to seal the victory. She finished the game in double figures with 10.

It wasn't the best night for Sellars from the floor, but she was able to put the ball through the hoop when it mattered most for her squad. It didn't surprise her coach in the least.

"Ella is a leader for us," Davis said. "She's the glue. She never quits and has confidence in herself. I told her in the fourth, 'We need you this quarter.' She came in, knocked that 3 down that I think sealed it and then made her free throws. It's all you can ask from your senior leader."

Steele and Woods both had 17 points, the high-water mark for the contest.

Both players were kept just below their season-scoring averages. Steele averages 21.9 ppg and Woods is right behind her with 20.9 ppg.

Quinn added 16 points for the Red Devils.

Ashland (10-4) looks to keep the momentum rolling tonight as it faces Rowan County on the road.

Russell (14-4) will try to get back on track on Friday when the team faces Morgantown in The Classic at St. Albans.

RUSSELL FG FT REB TP

Steele 5-15 5-6 6 17

Quinn 6-15 1-2 1 16

Sanders 3-4 2-2 6 8

Fitzpatrick 2-4 0-0 2 4

Darnell 1-3 0-0 4 2

Oborne 0-2 0-0 2 0

Team 1

TOTAL 17-43 12-18 22 47

FG Pct.: 39.5. FT Pct.: 66.6. 3-pointers: 5-15 (Quinn 3-8, Steele 2-4. Darnell 0-1. Oborne 0-2). PF: 17. Fouled out: Steele. Turnovers: 12.

ASHLAND FG FT REB TP

Woods 7-14 2-6 8 17

Sellars 2-9 5-6 4 10

Duckwyler 4-6 0-2 3 8

J. Gulley 3-4 0-0 4 7

Delaney 1-4 3-4 3 5

A. Gulley 2-7 1-2 5 5

Karle 0-2 1-4 5 1

Team 4

TOTAL 19-46 12-24 36 53

FG Pct.: 41.3. FT Pct.: 50. 3-pointers: 3-12 (J. Gulley 1-1, Woods 1-4, Sellars 1-5, Duckwyler 0-1, Karle 0-1). PF: 15. Fouled out: J. Gulley. Turnovers: 9.

RUSSELL 10 13 11 13 — 47

ASHLAND 16 9 9 19 — 53

Officials: Greg Stevens, Jefferey Adkins, P.D. Harris.

(606) 326-2658 — wadams@dailyindependent.com

(606) 326-2658

wadams@dailyindependent.com