Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 15, 2013

Returning to form

Stickler rediscovers touch, East girls beat Boyd

Rocky Stanley
The Independent

GRAYSON — East Carter sophomore Megan Stickler picked a good time to rediscover her shooting touch.

Stickler popped in four of her five 3-point attempts and the Lady Raiders withstood a Boyd County’s fourth-quarter comeback to win 52-50 Monday night at Harold Holbrook Athletic Complex-East.

After connecting three times from long range to help stake East Carter to a 10-point halftime lead, Stickler answered a Boyd County surge in the third quarter with her final trey to ignite a 7-0 run.

“Megan has not been shooting the way she is capable,” Lady Raiders coach Hager Easterling said. “It’s like a good hitter going into a slump.

“I thought we did a good job tonight of getting good shots. I’m happy for Megan. The way we have been playing defense, if we start making shots then look out.”

Stickler finished with a team-high 17 points.

“I think that’s the best I’ve shot from out there,” she said. “Our team did a good job of driving and kicking the ball out.”

Meanwhile, a Lady Raiders’ defense that came in holding opponents to 40.2 points per game turned in more good work. East Carter allowed Boyd County only one basket in the final 10 1/2 minutes of the half.

East Carter registered its 16th Region-leading 13th win in a matchup of the two teams considered to be the biggest threats to defending region champion Ashland.        

The game carried plenty of significance for a young Lady Raiders squad. For many of the players, it marked their victory over Boyd County, which won the last four meetings over the previous two seasons.

“It means a lot,” Stickler said. “We’ve been talking about this game over the last week, working in practice to get prepared.”

East Carter built a 13-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Bryana Greenhill made a 3-pointer from the corner, eighth-grader Haley Hall hit a 15-footer and Greenhill put up a running shot that hung on the rim before dropping through to make it 47-34.

“I thought we did some good things to establish the lead,” Easterling said. “Good teams like Boyd County are going to make a run, and they did that.”

The Lady Lions scored 12 of the next 14 points behind the strong play of junior forward Taylor Wheeler, who tossed in 28 points.

Dangerous shooter Logan Fraley got one of her few open looks to connect on a three, then Wheeler sank four consecutive free throws to close the gap to 49-46 with 1:29 still remaining.

“The kids fought hard, which is a positive,” Boyd County coach Pete Fraley said. “We’ve just got to quit putting ourselves in a hole.”

East Carter responded to the Lady Lions’ charge as point guard Kristen Mayo made three of four free throws in the final 22 seconds. The last one extended the margin to four points.

Wheeler scored on a driving shot with three seconds to left, and East Carter did not have to inbound the ball before the remaining time ticked off the clock.

“This was the kind of game that will make both teams better,” said Easterling, pleased with his squad’s continuing maturity. “I’m not sure we would have held on and won this game last year. Every night can‘t be pretty. You have to battle and pull through with grit and grind. I thought we did that tonight.”

Mayo scored 13 points for East Carter, while post player Kelsey Stumbo supplied nine points, four rebounds and four blocked shots.

Wheeler tallied 21 points in the second half and also pulled down eight rebounds for Boyd County (12-5). Emily Stewart was next with 10 points.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.