East Carter girls basketball coach Hager Easterling can’t remember the last time his team scored only four points in a quarter. It happened on Friday night, and East Carter still won by 27 points.
East Carter overcame a four-point first quarter and controlled the rest of the game to defeat Russell 61-34 on Friday at Russell High School.
Easterling said after starting the game so tentative, his team was able to fight through Russell’s aggressive defense and put the ball in the basket.
“We let that knock us off a cut, or knock us off a move to the basket,” Easterling said. “After the terrible first quarter, I thought we played a great second quarter because we played through that. We didn’t let those bumps and bangs and things like that distract us.”
East Carter opened up a 12-1 run in the first four minutes of the second quarter. The Lady Raiders ended up outscoring Russell 30-7 in the second half.
Russell coach Mandy Layne said when East Carter switched up to its press, it was the difference in the second quarter.
“They were able to score and set up their press,” Layne said. “Then they were able to score off their press.”
Russell struggled to break the press and committed 24 turnovers, including 15 in the first half alone.
After not causing much damage with one press in the first quarter, Easterling said switching to a different press in the second quarter really started to push the game in his team’s favor.
“Teams will get in a groove against you a lot of times so you have to have a counter,” Easterling said. “I thought we did a good job countering with that. It took away some things that they were doing and looking to do against our first press and I don’t thing they ever got adjusted to it.”
But more importantly for Easterling, after his team caused the turnover, the Lady Raiders looked to be aggressive to the basket.
“After we made the steals we were looking to score,” he said.
Bryana Greenhill led the Lady Raiders with 11 points in a game that saw every Lady Raider who played score.
In fact, the next top scorer, Alexis Pennington (nine points), was the eighth player off the bench for East Carter.
Easterling said that’s the good thing about this team — its depth can propel them to a victory.
“I thought the kids on the bench gave us a huge boost tonight,” Easterling said. “Everybody is not going to be on top of their game every night. That’s the good thing about having a deep team. Throughout the year we’ve had seven different girls be the leading scorer in a game.
“That’s just the way we play — the person that’s open is the person that’s going to shoot the ball.”
Russell’s Hope Parsley put in a game-high 13 points.
After going 1 of 6 in the first half, the junior hit her first three shots in the second, and finished 5 of 12.
“I was just really proud of Hope’s effort overall,” Layne said. “Offensively, I was glad she was posting up strong and taking the ball to the basket.”
After Parsley, Russell (7-11) had only one player score more than one field goal — Shelby Huddleston finished the game 2 of 2 for four points.
With its fifth straight win, East Carter (14-5) now has the highest win total in the region.
Easterling said his team is starting to move further in the right direction as the season starts to wind down.
“I told the kids after the game that I like the direction we’re going in,” he said. “Our defense is getting better and better. Offensively we’re starting to realize who’s open, making the right cuts and making right decisions.”
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.