After winning the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, “It’s never pretty. It’s never perfect. But it’s us.”
When West Carter senior Kyle Brown heard that, he told coach Jeremy Webb that quote reminded him of this year’s Comets.
Those words certainly fit on Tuesday night in Carter County’s Super Bowl. The Comets cleared their path in the fourth quarter en route to a 45-39 defeat of East Carter in the 62nd District Tournament opening round at Harold Holbrook Athletic Complex East.
Neither team was especially outstanding, but the Comets made plays in crucial situations. Defensively, they held East Carter scoreless from the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter to the 1:02 point. Meanwhile, their offense went on a 10-0 run that included a pivotal play by Brown.
Brown, the game’s top scorer and rebounder with 18 and 11, bobbled the ball at the top of the key before dropping it off to Dalton Spurlock. He then made a cut through an opening toward the basket. Spurlock sizzled a pass to the dashing Brown, and Brown promptly drew a foul and banked in a bucket.
The two-pointer gave West Carter its largest lead at the time, at 38-32 with 2:21 to go. It also ended East Carter season leading scorer’s Kyle Stewart’s night with five fouls.
“(Brown) made a great play on him,” Webb said. “That gave us that full two-possession cushion.”
“Dalton Spurlock was the key player there,” Brown said. “He hit me with a pass when he saw me cutting. Then, when I cut, I knew Stewart didn’t take very many charges. I knew he liked to block shots, so I just kind of went into him and got my shot up.”
Brown missed the ensuing free throw, but continued team defense kept West Carter comfortably ahead. The Comets held the Raiders to 30-percent shooting overall.
East Carter’s Cole Brammer finally broke the scoring drought with a free throw before nailing a 3-pointer moments later, but it was too late for the Raiders. Brammer, a junior, finished with a team-best 16 points.
Quinn Huddle hit a trey to cut the Comets’ advantage to four with 20 seconds left. Spurlock and Jacob Layne helped seal the win and punch a ticket to the 16th Region Tournament with a free throw apiece in the final seconds.
Layne, who tallied 10 points, thought back to West Carter’s unsettling 1-12 start to the season.
“We came real far from the beginning of the year,” he said. “We all just started playing together, and it finally started clicking.”
Webb said it was a “total team effort” on Tuesday. He mentioned Tristen Mitchell’s defense, and the playmaking of Dustin Black, Spurlock and Layne, among others, as keys. The Comets won the rebounding battle, 32-23.
West Carter (9-18) has won eight of its past 14. Webb said the turning point was a win over Fairview in the All “A” Classic on Jan. 10.
“We were dead in the water,” Webb remembered. “Practices were getting pretty grim. We sneaked in there and won one on Fairview and our confidence grew.”
The Comets move on to face Morgan County in the 62nd District title game on Thursday night.
They fell to East Carter in that game last season so, in that regard, Tuesday was payback.
“It feels real good to end our archrival’s season on their own floor,” said Layne of a floor that will actually be taken up and replaced before next season.
East Carter (11-18) held a 32-31 lead after a tough basket by Stewart. However, he recorded just seven points and three rebounds.
Stewart, a senior, was saddled with two fouls with 3:45 left in the first quarter after a double foul call on him and West Carter’s Mitchell. His minutes were limited from that point forward.
Said Raiders coach Brandon Baker about the call: “A double foul? Come on, now. Man up and make a call.
“I feel for Kyle,” he continued about the 6-foot-3 forward. “I guess we shouldn’t have posted him up. Maybe we should’ve just played him on the perimeter, and that way he wouldn’t get the crap beat out of him.”
Baker said he expected a “grinder of a game,” and that “whoever got separated at the right time was going to win.
“They got separated at the right time,” he said.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.