GRAYSON Bradley Walker emerged from the visitor’s locker room at Harold Holbrook Athletic Complex East on Thursday night and glanced down at his smart watch.
“One-hundred-eighteen beats a minute,” the West Carter assistant coach said with a grin.
The final score of Comets 46, East Carter 33 might not suggest a pulse-pounding finish. But that’s because West Carter calmly and coolly navigated the endgame, even as the Raiders did their best to make the Comets’ coaches’ blood pressure spike early in the fourth quarter.
Two turnovers on West Carter’s first two possessions of the final frame led to three East Carter free throws, and the Raiders hung within three points.
Then the Comets went to work from the foul line, connecting on 12 of 17 charity tosses in the fourth quarter. And West Carter limited East Carter to three field goals in that period to pull away.
“That’s exactly what East-West games, it seems like, always are. It’s just a grind for 32 minutes,” Comets coach Jeremy Webb said, drawing out the “iiiii” in “grind” for emphasis. “I was very proud of the job that our guys did defensively tonight. I mean, what can you say? We held them to 33 points. That’s where we won the game.”
Tyson Webb and Braden Leadingham each scored 12 points for West Carter, in nearly opposite fashion. Webb — the coach’s cousin — pitched in 10 of his in the first half, while Leadingham netted nine after intermission. They included a free throw with 7:25 remaining and a one-handed bucket in the lane at the 6:59 mark to stanch the Raiders’ run.
“He’s a nice player,” East Carter coach Brandon Baker said of Leadingham. “He doesn’t get the respect he deserves. He’s one of the better ones in the region.”
Jeremy Webb also pointed to the efforts of seventh man Jackson Bond to help the Comets withstand East Carter’s aggressive, initally effective defensive pressure.
“We turned it over a couple times to give (East Carter) a little momentum,” Webb said, “but I felt like when Jackson came in the game, his speed and quickness and ballhandling ability changed a little of the complexion of that. He was able to get over top and attack the basket some.”
Bond scored six points, four of them on free throws.
West Carter (6-6, 2-1 62nd District seeding) won despite only making 11 field goals. That was one more, though, than East Carter converted.
The Raiders, Baker said, struggled against the Comets’ zone, and he took full responsibility.
“I feel for my guys because I didn’t have them ready because we didn’t rep zone offense one time in practice,” Baker said. “I never dreamed that (West Carter) would come out and zone us, just didn’t, and obviously, you could tell.
“I’m not frustrated at my guys whatsoever. This is probably the worst feeling you can have as a coach, when you’ve let your guys down, didn’t have them prepared. I hope they still believe in me ... we were exposed, and that’s on me.”
Even if that were true, East Carter still hung within three 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. But the Raiders went oh-fer from the field between Braden Hicks’s putback and-1 with 5:07 to go in the third quarter and Donovan Damron’s transition bucket with 5:54 remaining in the game.
That one got East Carter (7-6, 2-1 seeding) within six before the Comets assembled a 9-1 burst — seven of them free throws — to put it away.
“Our team’s old enough, we have enough maturity, that I knew we were gonna handle it and we were gonna put back the lead,” Leadingham said. “East Carter’s a very good team. We slowed the ball back down and started scoring again, and we stepped up big on defense.”
Micah Adams scored 11 points to pace the Raiders before the packed house, deafening at key moments, typical of the Carter County rivalry.
“Any time you play the East-West game with this kind of energy, in this kind of atmosphere, I can try to yell out a play a lot of times and nobody in the gymnasium can hear it,” Webb said. “The guy sitting next to me can’t even hear it. That’s such a huge part of what makes this so enjoyable.”
West Carter won for the 10th time in its last 13 encounters with East Carter. The next one is Jan. 31 in Olive Hill.
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W. CARTER FG FT REB TP
Webb 3-11 6-6 3 12
Callahan 1-4 1-3 6 3
B. Leadingham 3-8 6-7 4 12
Tackett 2-4 3-4 4 8
Dean 1-4 2-4 5 4
Jordan 0-0 1-2 5 1
Bond 1-1 4-4 1 6
TOTAL 11-32 23-30 31 46
FG Pct.: 34.4. FT Pct.: 76.7. 3-pointers: 1-3 (Tackett 1-2, Webb 0-1). PF: 14. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 11.
E. CARTER FG FT REB TP
Adams 3-7 4-4 3 11
Hicks 1-5 3-3 5 5
Tussey 1-10 2-2 2 4
Damron 1-5 1-2 0 3
Binion 3-6 0-1 8 7
Miller 0-4 1-4 0 1
Goodman 1-2 0-0 0 2
Pope 0-0 0-0 0 0
TOTAL 10-39 11-16 22 33
FG Pct.: 25.6. FT Pct.: 68.8. 3-pointers: 2-16 (Adams 1-1, Binion 1-2, Hicks 0-3, Tussey 0-5, Damron 0-2, Miller 0-2, Goodman 0-1). PF: 23. Fouled out: Tussey. Turnovers: 11.
W. CARTER 12 10 6 18 — 46
E. CARTER 6 7 9 11 — 33
Officials: Jordan Barker, Randy Taylor and Mike Whisman.