By MATT FULTZ
For The Independent
Ugly. Grinding. Ashland coach Bill Bradley struggled to find a word that accurately summarized his team’s game against Russell.
Bradley wasn’t at a complete loss for words, however, as he had no problem coming up with at least one other way of describing the contest. Win.
Despite 16 turnovers and a subpar shooting effort, especially from behind the arc, the Kittens were able to walk out of Marvin Meredith Gymnasium with a 64-43 win on Friday night.
“That was pretty ugly to watch,” Bradley said. “Russell really played hard; they played really well tonight. I thought we stuck with it. We just grinded it out a little bit, but we stayed with it and did what we had to do to get the win. I really don’t know how to describe it, except a team win.”
Russell (11-14) was well within striking distance. It traield 38-33 with seven minutes remaining in fourth quarter before Ashland rattled off 16 of the next 18 points to put the game out of reach.
“Our defense really turned it around,” Bradley said. “They made a few turnovers and we were able to convert.”
In all, the Ashland (19-5) press forced the Lady Devils into 24 miscues.
Up until the fourth quarter blitz, Russell coach Mandy Layne couldn’t have been happier with her team’s play.
“For three-and-a-half quarters, we played outstanding,” she said. “That was probably the best basketball that we have played the whole entire year. Every time that we come out, we are starting to play better and better.”
The defense of the Lady Devils was particularly outstanding, as they held the Kittens to 39 percent shooting from the field.
With Russell doing a good job of closing off all the driving lanes, Ashland began to settle for shots from outside, where they couldn’t seem to find their range — the Kittens finished 7 of 29 from behind the 3-point line.
“We did a good job of contesting their shots, and keeping them out of the paint,” Layne said. “And for the most part, we finished possessions off by getting the rebounds.”
Bradley said his team has to remain aggressive, even when its shots aren’t falling.
“Normally we hit more than we did tonight, but we have to get the ball inside more,” he said. “We put a little offense in just this week, but we are just not quite there with it yet. We have to get the ball to the middle of the paint, and let things happen there.”
Allie Slone, who recently returned from a knee injury, was one of the few Kittens who had no trouble finding the basket. She finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc.
“She played really well tonight,” Bradley said. “She ran the point well, when she was there. She made some threes, and she had that little runner down the middle of the lane.”
Russell was led by Lexi Berry, who was constantly probing the interior of the Ashland defense from her guard position.
“I’m really proud of the way Lexi took the ball to the basket,” Layne said of the junior, who tallied 12 points. “We have been wanting her to be more aggressive, and against Alexis Robinson, such a good defensive player, we are really proud of how she played.”
Hope Parsley joined Berry in double figures with 10.
Sydney Cullop and Kaylyn Gambill each scored 10 for Ashland.