By MATT FULTZ
For The Independent
Lance Evans’ days as a high school defensive back on the gridiron are now behind him, but the 6-foot-5 forward still has plenty of time to use his skills to pick off passes on the hardwood.
Evans reeked havoc from his position on the backside of the Red Devil press by intercepting and deflecting countless Greenup County passes on Friday.
With the aid of Evans, the Russell defense forced the Musketeers into 21 turnovers, which the Red Devils, especially Kyle Skaggs, wasted no time turning into points.
After Greenup County briefly took the lead at 8-7 early in the first quarter, Russell ratcheted up the pressure and outscored the Musketeers 39-12 over the last 12 minutes of the first half in route to a 68-31 victory at Greenup County High School.
“From our scouting report, we really thought that pressure would hurt them,” Russell coach Merle Kidwell said. “They are young and inexperienced, playing a lot of guys without much varsity experience and I thought we could take advantage of that.”
While scoring but one point, Kidwell said Evans showed what kind of asset he can be this season.
“He is just learning what kind of basketball player he can be,” Kidwell said. “He doesn’t have any varsity experience, but he was just active. He was active rebound and blocking shots.”
As Lance and the rest of the Red Devils handled the defense, Skaggs took care of much of the offense. The senior scoring sensation turned in his second consecutive 31-point performance to start the season. He is now just 60 points shy of school’s all-time mark for points in a career.
Seventeen of Skaggs points came in the opening quarter, in which the Red Devils turned a one-point deficit into a 12-point lead in a matter of just four minutes.
“Kyle really got us going in the first quarter, after we missed some easy shots early that allowed them to get the lead,” Kidwell said.
First-year Greenup County coach Harold Tackett said his team could never recover from the Russell first quarter spurt.
“That’s what happens when a young team faces an experienced team like Russell,” he said after his debut on the Musketeer sideline. “No matter how much you do it in practice, it is just so much different in a game. They just shoot the gaps so well.”
Tackett inherited a team that won 18 games a year ago, but eight seniors from that team are now gone, leaving this year’s team young and inexperienced.
“We just have to start growing up. No one is going to come around with magic fairy dust and sprinkle it on their head. It is going to be a long process,” he said. “We just have to take it step by step and stay dedicated to the fundamentals.”
With the win, Russell improved to 1-0 in district play and 2-0 on the season. They begin play in the EKC Tournament today against Morgan County.
Greenup County (0-1) will look to get Tackett his first win at the school tonight against Pikeville.