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Vikings bounce Red Devils

Feb. 22—RUSSELL — One season concludes. Another is set to begin.

Rowan County and Russell both ended their regular-season slate on Thursday night at Marvin Meredith Gym. The Vikings hit several key buckets from long range in the third quarter and used a big night from Colby Wilburn and Dashawn Watson to pull away for a 73-63 road win over the Red Devils.

"I've had it happen both ways," Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker said of the effect of regular-season finale outcomes. "The thing that I do like and can carry over, I liked the way we played tonight. I thought we played well on both sides of the ball. We defended and rebounded the ball well. When we rebound like that, it's usually a good sign for us. It allows us to get out in transition and run a little bit. We sat down and guarded really well tonight for three quarters."

Rowan County hit four baskets from long range in the third but ended the frame with three consecutive layups, the final basket off one of Russell's 10 turnovers. A Slade White putback gave the Vikings its biggest lead at 64-38 early in the fourth stanza.

Rowan County placed three players in double figures. Wilburn hit 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and led the team with 18 points. Watson posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Brayden Mirus collected 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting. The Vikings shot 53.6% from the field.

"We start five guards and all five can score," Thacker said. "We don't have to rely on certain people to carry us. If we are going to give the other guys some clean looks, we will take it. Weston, Jayson Ingles and Dashawn all have their ways to get to the basket and score. Brayden has done a great job of running the point for us since around Christmas. He's taken on that role. It has freed up Dashawn to be a little more offensive-minded."

Watson can be a difference-maker on the court just by his energy level alone. The senior has increased his numbers over the course of the season. Thacker feels the same about his entire roster. He has seen his team make strides throughout the year.

"He did a little bit of everything," Thacker said of Watson. "When he stays locked in, ready to go and engaged, it makes us that much better. Brayden Mirus has been battling an injury bug but he's a tough kid. He won't take no for an answer. We had to shut him down in a few practices but he showed that he's been feeling better and it showed (on Thursday night)."

Caleb Rimmer paced Russell in scoring for most of the night. He scored nine of the Red Devils' 13 points in the first eight minutes of the second half but the team could not close the gap until the game's final minutes.

Russell finished the season against two physical, veteran opponents. It can prepare the team for the biggest game of the season when the Red Devils meet Raceland in the opening round of the 63rd District Tournament on Monday night at Greenup County.

"Both teams we faced at the end of the season are region tournament-type teams," Russell coach Derek Cooksey said. "They are well-coached. We knew that we were going to have our hands full. The other night at East Carter, they out-efforted us but we came back the next day and responded. Tonight, in the first quarter, we did some things that we have been working on, moving the basketball and we got down and defended. When Caleb went out, we had to go to zone. It opened up opportunities for the Vikings as far as scoring."

The Vikings arrived a little late to the gym but did not waste any time grabbing a lead after Rimmer scored the first nine points for the Red Devils. The freshman had to depart the game before the first quarter ended with two fouls.

"He's our team leader and our guys look up to him," Cooksey said. "He was part of our early offensive success. Any time one of your leaders goes off the floor, we have kids that step up. We have to learn from it."

Joe Kaczmarcyk drained a wing 3 to put Russell up by a point in the opening frame but Mirus grabbed a carom off the rim and put back the rebound to give Rowan County (20-10) a 15-14 lead heading into the second quarter. Cooksey entered Kaczmarcyk into the starting lineup for another supply of senior leadership.

"He knows his role and brings a lot of experience as a senior," Cooksey said. "We have so many pieces and we can be flexible. We wanted to see that tonight. Rowan County has so many seniors out there and we really needed to defend. In the first quarter, we did that."

Gabe Pridemore added a triple to get the Red Devils even to start the second but the 14-13 lead that Russell held late in the first quarter would be the last time the Red Devils held the advantage.

The Vikings ended the second stanza with a 14-2 run, started by an Ingles 3-pointer and concluded with a pair of buckets by Jace Winkleman.

Rimmer had 21 points and seven rebounds for Russell (16-11). Elijah Neel added 13.

Rowan County hosts the 61st District Tournament next week. The Vikings meet Menifee County in the opening round on Tuesday.

ROWAN CO. FG FT REB TP

Watson 6-10 2-2 10 14

Maxey 2-7 0-0 3 6

Ingles 3-7 0-0 0 8

B. Minus 7-11 3-3 8 17

Wilburn 7-13 0-2 5 18

G. Minus 1-3 0-0 0 2

Winkleman 2-2 0-0 0 4

White 2-2 0-1 1 4

Goldberg 0-0 0-0 0 0

Rose 0-0 0-0 0 0

Birchfield 0-0 0-0 0 0

Thacker 0-1 0-0 0 0

Team 2

TOTAL 30-56 5-8 29 73

FG Pct: 53.6. FT Pct: 62.5. 3-point FGs: 8-17 (Watson 0-1, Maxey 2-2, G. Minus 0-1, Ingles 2-6, B. Minus 0-1, Wilburn 4-5, Thacker 0-1) PF: 9. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 5.

RUSSELL FG FT REB TP

Quinn 1-7 1-2 1 2

Neel 5-9 2-3 2 13

Rimmer 9-14 2-3 7 21

Kaczmarcyk 1-3 0-0 3 3

Fleming 1-4 0-0 1 2

Pridemore 2-3 0-0 3 5

Burgess 1-2 2-2 2 5

Cordial 1-3 0-0 3 2

Benge 2-3 0-0 1 6

Hovanec 0-0 0-0 0 0

Burnham 0-0 0-0 1 0

Hewlett 0-0 0-0 0 0

Hankins 0-0 0-0 0 0

Jones 1-1 0-0 1 3

Smith 0-0 0-0 0 0

Team 2

TOTAL 24-49 7-10 27 63

FG Pct: 48.9. FT Pct: 70.0. 3-point FGs: 8-18 (Quinn 0-3, Neel 1-2, Rimmer 1-1, Pridemore 1-1, Fleming 0-2, Burgess 1-2, Kaczmarcyk 1-3, Benge 2-3, Jones 1-1) PF: 6. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 10.

ROWAN CO. 15 21 24 13 — 73

RUSSELL 14 11 13 25 — 63

Officials: Kenny Kegley, Mario McKissick, Nathan Sutton

(606) 326-2671 — msparks@dailyindependent.com