For The Independent
Talk about your turnarounds.
Rowan County's boys completed one Thursday against visiting East Carter. After scoring just 21 points the first half, the Vikings outscored the Raiders, 41-23, in a 62-46 win at Warren H. Cooper Gymnasium.
To Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker, Thursday night marked his team's best defensive effort. As for the first-half offensive futility …
“That half of basketball wasn't the way we've been playing,” Thacker said. “Those weren’t the things that we’ve been doing to feel good about ourselves. Eleven turnovers, we only got 18 shot attempts in the first half, and a third of those were bad.
“We shoot 7-for-12 on good shots … (East gets) 29 shots on goal. That makes it kind of tough.”
The final 16 minutes, however, East Carter was suffering the most.
The Vikings: rang up 22 points in the fourth quarter; out-rebounded the Raiders, 44-17; and scored 18 points off their bench (the Raiders managed just eight).
Ask Thacker about difference between the halves, and his answer was a resurrected second-half offense. “We got stops, but then we scored,” he said. “The difference was, we scored, so then we were able to control things a little bit.”
East Carter coach Brandon Baker talked about how hard it was to get shots, and he was right — the Raiders made just eight of 29 in the final 16 minutes.
“We labored there, from the end of the third quarter on, to get looks at the basket,” Baker said. “We had a stretch there where we couldn't find one, and it kind of got in our heads a little bit.”
Indeed, a look at the final 3:22 of the third quarter is as good an explanation for what happened as any.
Rowan County’s Brandon Moore tied the score at 31-all on a layup that featured interior passes from Clay Fannin and Larry Whelan. East Carter’ss Cole Brammer put the Raiders ahead, 33-31, capping a 6-2 run, when the Vikings (17-9) pulled away to their third straight win and 10th of their last 12.
Vikings senior guard Tyler Thacker (16 points, 10 rebounds) knocked down a field goal and free throw, and junior guard Ryne Callahan (whose 17 points led all scorers) followed with a layup on Fannin's assist. Thacker knocked down a 3-pointer, took a charge on Cameron Sparks’ drive and hit a free throw.
That’s a 9-0 run, a 40-33 lead after three quarters — and the beginning of the end.
Thursday’s first half was not your offensive masterpiece: East, 11-of-29 from the field for 37.9 percent; Rowan County, seven-of-18 for 38.9 percent and 11 turnovers.
What was worse for the Vikings – not a bucket from Tyler Thacker’s two with 4:17 left in the first quarter to his layup with 3:23 left in the second. Rowan County stayed close thanks to making six of eight free throws in that span.
East (12-12) took a 23-21 halftime lead largely thanks to Sparks' seven points and Connor Greene’s six. The Raiders also converted Rowan County's mistakes into 10 points, while the Vikings grabbed 21 rebounds to East Carter’s 10.
Rowan County nevertheless turned in two shining moments late in the second quarter. First, Callahan flipped in an off-balance eight-footer despite the Raiders’ Bradley Marsh flinging him to the floor. The second was Moore’s two offensive rebounds and stick-back with 44 seconds left.
The most dazzling, however, was Greene's 3-pointer from the top of the key with three seconds remaining.
Whelan, Moore and Isaac Lee each scored, giving Rowan County a 46-33 less than three minutes into the final stanza. Brammer led East with 12 points, and Greene added 11.