The past two seasons West Carter has represented the 16th Region in the State All “A” Classic. This season, a different team will get a chance in Frankfort.
Russell defeated West Carter 65-47 in the 16th Region All “A” Classic semifinal on Tuesday at Raceland High School.
The win is the seventh straight for the Red Devils. Coach Merle Kidwell said his team is finally starting to get into a groove.
“They were kind of chasing Kyle (Skaggs),” Kidwell said. “A lot of people before the year said it was going to be a one-man show. And Kyle is a great player, but we have some other good players with him.
“Kyle will tell you it’s helped him that we have good players around him and that’s why we’re 16-4.”
Battling against a packed-in West Carter 2-3 zone, Russell got the usual production from Skaggs, who finished with a game-high 25 points.
But the Red Devils struggled against the zone in the first quarter, shooting just 4 of 13 from the floor.
Russell then turned to the play of post players Lance Evans and Johnny McGuire, who both finished with 10 points in the game.
With Evans at 6-foot-5 and McGuire at 6-4, the Red Devils were happy to use their size advantage over West Carter, which has no player taller than 6-2.
“There are going to be games like this where we have a size advantage,” Kidwell said. “Our guards have been good about getting them to ball in there. We’re still missing a few we need to make, but those two guys are big for us. We’ve got a good front line in this region.”
With the inside opening up the Red Devils’ offense, Jacob Porter was the one getting the outside shot to fall, scoring 13 points and hitting all three of Russell’s 3-pointers.
But it was his defense on West Carter’s Kyle Brown that really impressed his coach, who has described Porter as his go-to defender.
“Jacob did a tremendous job tonight,” Kidwell said. “A few years ago he wasn’t that good of a defensive player. He’s taken that upon himself and got into the weight room...and you need that on a team, to have a stopper defensively.”
Coming into the game Brown was the region’s second-leading scorer with around 23 points per game.
Brown finished the game with 11 points and only scored two in the second half.
“(Brown) is a great scorer and I was just trying to stay low on him,” Porter said. “Coach gave me that role, and I just took it personally trying to help our team win. I was just trying to keep him from taking his normal shots and trying to get into the rhythm .
But Porter has had plenty of practice guarding a team’s top scorer — he said he has to play defense on teammate Skaggs every day in practice.
“I consider Kyle (Skaggs) the best player in the region in my opinion,” Porter said. “I have to guard him everyday, and when I have to guard the other teams’ best scorer, it just makes it easier for me.”
With Brown struggling to find open looks, West Carter (3-13) couldn’t find the fire power to respond.
The Comets shot just above 36 percent on the game, but the scary statistic for coach Jeremy Webb was his team’s 8 of 24 performance from the free-throw line.
“We’re just not that poor of a free throw shooting team,” Webb said. “If we shoot our average of 70 percent from the line, it turns into a three-possession game.”
Along with struggling on the offensive end, West Carter struggled to contain Russell after the first quarter. That included a 14-4 run to start the second half that allowed Russell to move into cruise control.
“Their offensive execution is very, very good,” Webb said. “They move and pass the basketball better than any team I’ve seen in a long time.”
With the win Russell (16-4) moves onto the championship game on Thursday against Elliott County. Tip-off is scheduled for around 8 p.m.
The 16th Region All “A” classic girls semifinal game scheduled for Tuesday was postponed until tonight.
Bath County and West Carter will play tonight at Raceland High School at 7 p.m.
The winner will play Elliott County in the championship game on Thursday at 6 p.m.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.