Article by Kevin Colley – The Morehead News
Throughout the year, Elaine Douglas’ bunch have only known one word.
After being behind by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, the Rowan County Lady Vikings followed the mantra of their coach and fought back from an eight-point deficit – including a five-point margin with 31 seconds left – to cut the lead to one.
However, Rowan County simply ran out of time as an Allyson Callahan three-quarters court heave fell shy of its target in a 68-65 loss to the Russell Lady Devils in Saturday evening’s 16th Region Semifinal.
When one looks at the box score, the final score represents how even both teams played.
Both shot 50 percent or above, with Russell holding a slight 31-29 advantage in the rebounding column and Rowan County putting together the same two-tally edge, 16-14, in the assists column.
Unfortunately, the turnover battle was not one that the Lady Vikings were able to take home, as Rowan County’s 26 turnovers to Russell’s 21 played a key role in the 68-65 outcome.
For Elaine Douglas, the turnovers ended up being the deciding and ultimate factor in the contest – but it didn’t take anything away from how hard her girls played this season.
“The girls played hard,” Douglas said. “The 26 turnovers just killed us. That’s more than we’ve had all year. When you’ve got a team that’s ready to play like Russell was, turnovers will kill you.”
At first, the contest’s events did not look good for Rowan County as the Lady Vikings turned the ball over three times, missed a shot, and was forced into a tieup in its first five offensive possessions as Russell took an 8-0 advantage with 5:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Rowan County, however, fought back as an 8-2 spurt by the Lady Vikings late in the first quarter helped cut the deficit to four after a quarter of play.
In the second frame, Morgan Berry and Sarah Purdy continued to work away, with the pair putting up 15 points together in the first half.
However, Russell seemed to always come up with the answer in the form of Maggie Jachimczuk and Madison Darnell. The pair added 14 of the Lady Devils’ 27 to grab a six-point edge at the halftime break.
Rowan County flipped the script to start the second half as the Lady Vikings’ full-court pressure allowed Berry to put together six straight points – including a four-point play on the right wing – to cut the lead to a two-point margin.
However, despite 17 straight points from Berry and Purdy, Darnell and Jachimczuk kept Rowan County at bay again, as the pair strung together 16 third quarter points to push the lead back to a 48-40 margin after three quarters of play.
The fourth quarter was exactly that – a frantic one, with the Lady Vikings cutting the lead to as little as four.
But with less than 10 seconds left, that looked to be too little, too late.
However, Hannah Bandura went to work.
The senior took a pass on the go-ahead and absorbed the contact from Alexis Maynard to finish the and-one opportunity.
Then Bandura responded off of the ensuing Russell inbound by stealing a pass and showing the presence of mind to rifle it inside to Allyson Callahan, who finished off the deuce and cut the gap to a single point at 66-65.
After fouling Darnell and watching as the sophomore made a pair of free throws to push the lead to a 68-65 margin, Rowan County had one final chance to tie.
With less than a second and a half remaining, Allyson Callahan put up a three-quarters court bomb in an effort to continue the Lady Vikings’ campaign.
But the outcome was not to be, as Callahan’s shot fell shy of its target, giving Russell the 68-65 victory.
Even with the loss, there was still plenty to be proud of. A 23-win season and the program’s first district title since 2011 is something to surely be happy about.
For Douglas, her five departing seniors – Hannah Bandura, Ariel Gross, Summar Oakley, Nicole Plank and Sarah Purdy added the leadership and mental toughness necessary to allow the Lady Vikings to have the success that it had throughout the 2015-16 season.
“The girls really worked hard and put together a wonderful season,” Douglas said. “I’m really going to miss each of our five seniors. They really worked hard for me this year. The younger kids are going to have big shoes to fill, but that’s just the way it goes.”
Russell 14 13 21 20 – 68
Rowan County 10 11 19 25 – 65
Russell – Darnell 8-8-25, Jachimczuk 9-3-21, Maynard 1-5-8, Michael 5-0-11, Mitchell 1-1-3, Totals 24-17-68.
Rowan County – Bandura 2-4-8, Berry 7-11-26, Callahan 5-2-13, Plank 0-1-1, Purdy 8-1-17, Totals 22-19-65.
3-Point Goals – Russell 3 (Darnell, Maynard, Michael); Rowan County 2 (Berry, Callahan).
Records – Russell 25-8, Rowan County 23-9.
Kevin Colley can be reached at email@example.com or at 784-4116