East Carter girls basketball coach Hager Easterling wasn’t happy with his team’s shooting numbers. But he was ecstatic about the final score.
The Lady Raiders shot just better than 29 percent, but held strong defensively for a 50-34 win over Lewis County on Monday night at East Carter High School.
Watching his team step up defensively was a joy for Easterling to see.
“I thought it was really ugly on one end and we guarded our behinds off on the other end,” Easterling said. “I thought we got some good looks and we missed, but what I liked about it was the maturity we showed from last year.
“Last year if we shot like that, it would have affected us on the other end ... we didn’t do that tonight and we kept up our intensity on defense.”
East Carter’s intensity affected Lewis County’s grip on the ball — the Lady Lions turned the ball over 31 times in the game.
And while the Lady Lions shot over 50 percent from the floor, they attempted only 23 shots the entire game.
After racing out to a 14-12 lead in the first quarter, Lewis County coach Jay Fite said his team just seemed worn out from the pressure of East Carter.
“We got tired and I don’t thing we’re in the best shape right now,” Fite said. “Give East Carter credit because they wore us down and put the defensive pressure on us and they’re an excellent defensive team.”
One definitely feeling the pressure was Lewis County leading scorer Savannah Anderson, who came into the game averaging 17.2 points per game.
Constant double teams and tough defense not only limited her points — she finished with eight — but also limited the center’s touches.
“We usually try to make an adjustment, but they did a good jobs disrupting our guards,” Fite said. “We tried to do stuff to free Savannah up a little bit, but she kind of sat down on the block and they did a good job keeping two around her.”
East Carter sophomore Kelsey Stumbo had a lot of one-on-one matchups with Anderson on the block.
Easterling was happy to watch Stumbo hold her own against a scorer like Anderson.
“Kelsey is playing a lot tougher than she did last year,” Easterling said. “She’s progressed every year in that area and that’s the only thing keeping her from being a really good player. She battled in there and she’s learning to do that on a consistent basis.”
While the defense was stepping up, the offense struggled to hit open shots. The Lady Raiders went 2 of 14 from 3-point range with every shot being an open shot.
Point guard Kristen Mayo had to force the issue in the first half, driving the ball to get easy layups at the rim. She finished with 13 points in the first half and a game-high 15 overall.
Even though she was blocked three times by a bigger Lewis County team, Easterling said it wouldn’t stop Mayo from trying to make things happen.
“She’s fearless and I’ve never seen her back off against anybody in any city,” Easterling said. “She has a big heart about her and she’s not going to back off. I might have a heart attack if I ever see her back off out there.”
The win is the ninth in a row for East Carter (18-5), which continues to find ways to pull it out on the scoreboard.
Easterling said games like Monday’s make this winning streak more enjoyable, because it shows just how strong a team can be when things don’t go its way.
“What’s best for them is that it was a will to win on Monday,” Easterling said. “We showed that we had it. Games like that are good for you because when you get to the district tournament and the region tournament, you’re going to have to win some games like that.”
The loss snaps Lewis County’s (11-9) six-game winning streak after starting the season by losing eight of its first 13.
Fite said he knows his team is going to have more to improve in the home stretch.
“We wanted this opportunity to be against them,” Fite said. “It’s a measuring stick of where we’re at and where we’re not. And we have improved and we did get hot there and made a few strides, but we’ve got a long way to go.”