After being away from the top of the 62nd District for a year, East Carter found its way back to champion status in convincing style.
East Carter held West Carter to less than 10 points over the final three quarters on its way to a 65-25 win in the 62nd District championship game at East Carter High School on Friday.
East Carter coach Hager Easterling said after his team lost in the title game to Morgan County last year, the Lady Raiders have been on a mission to rectify it.
“Every kid who was out there on the floor tonight was there last year,” Easterling said. “It really hurt them. You could tell for about the last week or so, they were ready for the district tournament. They wanted to get the trophy where they think it belongs.”
West Carter kept the game close in the first period — it trailed only 18-10. But once the second period started, it looked like East Carter’s full-court pressure defense started to affect West Carter.
The Lady Comets scored only two points in the second quarter, while the Lady Raiders put up 22. In the first half alone, West Carter committed 17 turnovers and finished with 22 overall.
“We’re just so deep,” Easterling said. “It allows us to sustain pressure throughout the game. Clark Kellogg calls it ‘spurtability,’ and we have that ability to hit a big spurt and we did that tonight.”
East Carter’s second-quarter defense was so effective, it got to the point in which West Carter could barely get the ball inbounds.
On five straight possessions, the Lady Comets couldn’t get the ball past the Lady Raiders’ 3-point line before turning the ball over.
All five of those turnovers led to points for the Lady Raiders.
“It doesn’t do a whole lot of good if you’re causing turnovers and you’re never converting out of them,” Easterling said. “I thought we did a good job of that tonight. As soon as we got a deflection or a steal we had our heads up looking at the basket.”
Even in the halfcourt offense, the Lady Raiders showed their “spurtability” — they shot 50 percent from both the field and behind the 3-point line.
Three Lady Raiders were in double figures, led by eighth-graders Kristen Mayo and Haley Hall, both of whom had a game-high 12 points.
Megan Stickler added 11 points and Bryana Greenhill had nine points and eight rebounds for the Lady Raiders.
“Their confidence continues to grow in their shooting,” Easterling said. “We’ve played good defense all year long and it’s been our identity. Our offense is starting to catch up.”
West Carter (12-17) struggled from the field, going 8 of 32 in the game. Bonita Easterling was the team’s high scorer with eight points — all came in the fourth quarter.
Brooke Callihan had six points and Alexis Berry added four points. Four other Lady Comets had two points or fewer.
East Carter (24-7) will go into next week’s 16th Region Tournament as winners of 19 of its past 22 games. The season also saw the Lady Raiders go a perfect 8-0 against the 62nd District.
For Easterling, getting two wins in the district tournament is a really good sign for the next week’s region tournament.
“These girls have done a lot of impressive things this year,” Easterling said. “The postseason is about surviving and advancing. It’s always an advantage, you always want to go into the region tournament a winner. That was one of our goals, to win a district championship. We want to do that every year.”
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM
Ashley Holbrook (Elliott County); Samantha Worthington (Elliott County); Amber Cole (Morgan County); Cheyenna Ferguson (Morgan County); Brooke Callihan (West Carter); Brooke Adkins (West Carter); Alexis Berry (West Carter); Bryana Greenhill (East Carter); Kristen Mayo (East Carter); Megan Stickler (East Carter); Haley Hall (East Carter).