Gardner – The plan for Wyoming East guard Abby Russell has been to ease her back into action after tearing her ACL on May 2.
Due to necessity that plan was thrown out the window Friday night at PikeView.
Russell, a first-team all-state selection last season, responded accordingly.
The junior guard played a season-high 30 minutes off the bench Friday night, scoring 16 points as the Lady Warriors defeated the Panthers 51-44 in Gardner.
With fellow junior Kayley Bane forced to the bench early in the first quarter due to foul trouble, Russell was called upon to helped lead the charge.
She along with back-court mate Maddie Clark answered the call, scoring 10 points each in the opening half and combining for five steals. The combined effort helped limit PikeView all-stater Hannah Perdue to 3 of 11 shooting from the floor in the first half.
“We can usually cheat off of Colleen (Lookabill) and Maddie but Colleen got in major foul trouble,” East coach Angie Boninsegna said. “We kind of shifted a little bit and we didn’t guard the drive well. We helped some but it was a little bit late. (Perdue) made a couple good shots and she has good body control but when we went to two defenders on her it kind of slowed her down.”
Both teams struggled offensively from the jump with Bane, East’s second-leading scorer, relegated to the bench for 14 of the first 16 minutes due to foul trouble.
Clark filled the void, scoring East’s first six points to tie the game at 6-6. From there the Lady Warriors found a groove, closing the quarter on a 7-0 run courtesy of a 3-pointer from Cadee Blackburn and layups from Clark and Russell.
With East leading 13-6 after a quarter, Clark took a backseat as a scorer, allowing Russell to step into the spotlight. The latter scored eight of her 10 first-half points in the quarter, canning a pair of 3s, the second of which staked the Lady Warriors to a 24-13 lead.
“I was feeling it when we started warming up,” Russell said. “During the JV game when we were warming up I was hitting it. When I started warming up for varsity I wasn’t feeling it as much but when I went out there I was like ‘Hey, okay!’ and then I started shooting.”
While shots were falling at a high clip for East (10 of 20 inside the arc in the first half), PikeView couldn’t pull the lid off the basket.
Despite out-rebounding the Lady Warriors 20-13 in the first half (12-3 on the offensive glass), the Panthers were just 5 of 28 from the field.
“We talked about how every shot was going to be challenged because they’re a good defensive team,” PikeView coach Tracy Raban said. “We knew that coming in and I think we were a little shellshocked the first quarter but once we settled down in the third quarter we showed we could play with them. We just missed too many easy shots. We broke down their defense, got the plays we wanted, we just didn’t capitalize on the putbacks.”
Perdue’s struggles from the field didn’t carry over to the third quarter. The all-stater scored eight points out of the break helping cut the deficit to four late in the the frame. On the following possession Perdue played distributor, driving inside the arc and kicking to Anyah Brown who canned a 3 to make it a 33-32 game.
A pair of free throws from Brown, who finished the night with 15 points and 14 rebounds, tied the game at 36 heading into the fourth.
After a layup from Clark broke the tie, Brown again knotted it but a two-pointer from Bane snapped the stalemate for good. Aiding the cause was East’s commitment to getting the ball out of Perdue’s hands. Everywhere she went she saw a double team, even in the back court, occasionally facing triple teams.
“That’s basically what we did. We wanted to make somebody else beat us,” Boninsegna said. “At that point in time we weren’t playing good on-ball defense. We had Colleen with four fouls. Maddie had to be tired and Abby’s just returning from an ACL injury. Perdue’s a good player so we just made the decision we were going to put two on her. We brought Blackburn over to help out because her man was a little weaker so if we could trap and get the offside rebound, we did well on that.”
Perdue was limited to two points in the fourth but East’s struggles at the free throw line kept PikeView’s hopes alive late. Clinging to a four-point lead Bane grabbed an offensive board off a free throw miss, drew the foul and converted on one off her two attempts. A steal and jumper from the junior sealed the deal, accounting for the game’s final points.
For Raban the message to her team was clear after the loss. They finished shooting just 14 of 57 from the field, missing numerous layups despite out-rebounding East 43-25 — 23-11 on the offensive glass.
“Make the easy layups,” Raban said. “We have those opportunities and I think if we make those then they can’t double and triple Hannah because you’ve got to respect ‘Okay, these kids can put the ball in the basket or they are a threat underneath.’ I know they can do it because it’s been consistent all season long. I don’t know if they’re putting too much pressure on themselves but if we could capitalize and put those easy baskets in it would alleviate some of the pressure on Hannah.”
Russell and Clark led East with 16 points each. Perdue led PikeView with 16 as well while Brown added 15.
Wyoming East improves to 11-3 and will host Liberty on Monday. PikeView drops to 9-6 and will travel to Herbert Hoover on Saturday.
WE: 13 16 7 15 – 51
PV: 6 11 19 8 – 44
Hannah Blankenship 2, Maddie Clark 16, Kayley Bane 6, Colleen Lookabill 2, Cadde Blackburn 7, Alivia Monroe 2, Abby Russell 16
Hannah Harden 4, Brooke Craft 5, Hannah Perdue 16, Anyah Brown 15, Riley Meadows 4
3-point goals – WE: 3 (Blackburn 1, Russell 2); PV: 1 (Brown)