A trip from Grayson to Lewis County Middle School usually takes about 30 minutes.
It took over two hours for East Carter to arrive Saturday, but the Lady Raiders weren't fazed. They rode freshman Haley Hall's 13 points and 12 each from freshman guard Kristen Mayo and junior Kelsey Stumbo to a 48-43 first-round win in the Eastern Kentucky Conference Tournament at Lewis County Middle School.
The Lady Raiders thus take on Greenup County in the semifinals at 6 p.m. on Monday at Rowan County High School.
East Carter coach Hager Easterling said the delay — a clean-up of an early Saturday morning wreck involving an 18-wheeler at the Carter-Lewis county border that closed the AA Highway spur (Ky. 9) for several hours and forced East’s entourage to take Ky. 2 toward Greenup County and Ky. 10 to reach Vanceburg — didn’t affect his team. He was, however, “wore out” afterward and critical of his team’s “ragged play at both ends.”
You could also have called Easterling exasperated. After one miscue, you could almost hear him say “Why, why, why, would somebody tell me why?”
“I must’ve said ‘why’ probably 250 times because we did so many things out there that are so out of character for us on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively,” Easterling said. “But I really think it comes from us not preparing during the week the way we need to; we didn't prepare mentally, so as a result we weren’t prepared physically.”
Like Easterling, Lewis County (1-2) coach Jay Fite didn’t think the delay (the game was supposed to start at 2 p.m. but didn’t tip off until 3:10) hurt. He said his team was “relaxed and composed” in the first half — while citing a couple reasons for the loss.
“We just didn’t make free throws down the stretch,” Fite said. “... It could be fatigue early in the season. That’s something we’ll look at with a little extra conditioning.”
For the game, the Lady Lions made just 10 of 26 free throws. Two bouts of futility were especially frustrating: just four of 10 attempts over the last seven minutes of the second quarter, which allowed East Carter to take a 20-19 halftime lead; and a 3-for-8 clip over the game’s final 5:03.
Mayo hit a layup and free throw 50 seconds into the game. Problem was, those were the only points the Lady Raiders scored for nearly five minutes, when Megan Stickler finished a fast break with a layup.
And Lewis County’s first quarter? Problems and pleasure.
The miscues: two turnovers in less than a minute trying to lob passes to 6-foot-2 center Savannah Anderson. Then, a 13-2 run the rest of the opening stanza thanks to Anderson’s and Emily Frye’s four points apiece, including Anderson’s layup that included two offensive rebounds.
Frye led Lewis County with 16 points, and Anderson added 15.
Anderson opened the third quarter with four points, which along with Frye’s four and a Jaycey Fite three from the left corner put the Lady Lions ahead, 31-25, with a little more than a minute to go.
For East Carter, meanwhile, the third quarter was almost a rerun of the first — the Lady Raiders went just over three minutes without a point, but they hung around at 31-29 thanks to Bryana Greenhill’s four points in 34.6 seconds.
Three-pointers from Stumbo and Stickler tied the game at 41-all with 3:21 left. After Frye’s assist to Anderson 19 seconds later gave Lewis County its last lead (43-41), Mayo’s three free throws, Stumbo’s layup and Alexis Pennington’s two free throws sealed the win.
“I thought about the last maybe five minutes or so of the game we finally settled down and got into an offense, reversed the ball a few times,” Easterling said. “And that’s why we made those shots.”
East Carter 54
Lewis County 50
The Raiders snapped a two-game losing streak largely because of junior guard Connor Greene’s 18 points, but he was not the lone contributor. Senior Cole Brammer and junior Donald Damron each scored 12 points, and freshman Cameron Sparks added 10.
“I think our awareness of what we were actually wanting to do and how we wanted to play was a lot better, a lot sharper,” East Carter coach Brandon Baker said. “We simplified some things so we didn’t overload or overwhelm our own players … We may have done that the first couple games.”
The Raiders also shut out Lewis County senior Brett Ruckel for the first half (he finished with 11 points). Lions coach Joe Hampton said East Carter did nothing he didn’t expect — part of his succinct postgame summary.
“We failed to show up to play,” Hampton said. “ ... I’m not sure if there’s a misconception somewhere along the line they’ve been told they can walk onto the floor and win without giving effort. I think East Carter showed them that’s not the case. If they didn’t get the message against Ashland (Tuesday’s 92-68 wipeout), they definitely should have gotten it (yesterday).”
Still, Lewis County (1-2) tied the game a 50-all on Sammy Holder’s five-footer with 1:56 left. Trenton Walker led the Lions with 12 points.
E. CARTER 5 15 9 19 — 48
LEWIS CO. 13 6 12 12 — 43
East Carter: (48): Mayo 12, Greenhill 2-0 4, Hall 13, Stumbo 12, Stickler 5, Pennington 2.
Lewis Co. (43): Emily Frye 16, Thompson 3, Anderson 15, Fite 7, Blake 3.
Free throws: EC 8-16; LC 10-26. Three-pointers: EC 4 (Mayo, Hall, Stumbo, Stickler); LC 3 (Fite 2, Thompson).
E. CARTER 12 14 10 18 — 54
LEWIS CO. 6 8 20 16 — 50
East Carter: (54): Brammer 12, Damron 12, Greene 18, Sparks 10, Brooks 2.
Lewis Co. (50): Duncan 2, Walker 12, Adams 7, Ruckel 11, Holder 6, Lemaster 2, Parker 1, Mason 2, Weddington 4, McCann 3.
Free throws: EC 10-14; LC 15-23. Three-pointers: EC 6 (Greene 2, Sparks 2, Brammer, Damron); LC 1 (Adams).