Normally, falling behind by 10 points early on an opponent’s home floor would put pressure on a team.

However, Brandon Baker watched as his team settled in after giving up a big first quarter to shut down the potent Elliott County offense and come away with a 58-57 win on Tuesday night.

“Early, we got off to a rough start, but I was pleased to see us play with so much poise throughout the game,” the East Carter coach said. “Getting behind early really loosened us up. We were thinking so much that it slowed us down a step and they got behind us there.”

Van Allen Burge led the strong comeback for East Carter, scoring a game-high 27 points, including two clutch free throws with 14 seconds left that pushed the lead to two possessions.

Burge was also deadly from behind the 3-point line with four of East Carter’s six 3-pointers in the contest.

The senior shooting guard started out hot from the field and continued his rhythm throughout the action, going 9-of-16 from the floor and 5-for-5 at the free throw line.

There was no one quarter where Burge was especially dominant; instead, the senior guard was the essence of consistency with at least six points in each quarter.

“You just have to go with it and keep playing,” Burge said. “I knew if we came up here and played as a team, we had a chance to win the game.”

Burge and Baker both credited the team’s experience with close contests as a learning tool for the team that has allowed them to gain chemistry.

“We just have to learn to answer the call,” Burge said. “We are young and still learning to play together. It’s early in the season and we have a long way to go. It is just Dec. 19.”

That chemistry proved pivotal in the fourth quarter when the Raiders’ defensive effort went over and above anything that could have been expected.

The Raiders held the potent Elliott County offense without a single point for nearly the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Baker admitted it even surprised him, but credited his team’s help-side defense as the chief cause.

“I still have a hard time believing it,” Baker said. “Locating people quicker in transition and staying conscious about keeping guys in front of us is what we stressed at halftime. Our communication really got better the second half. From top to bottom, I was very pleased with our performance. Our seniors really stepped up for us and the guys coming off the bench provided us with intensity and a spark as well.”

The Raiders turned the seven-minute shutout into a 9-0 run that turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead with 90 seconds to play.

Ethan Faulkner, who had 16 points to lead the Lions, hit a pair of free throws that thwarted the run, but the Raiders hit eight of 10 free throws down the stretch with everyone of them counting thanks to Timothy Knipp’s 3-pointer for the Lions at the buzzer.

The final score was fitting considering players from both teams play AAU ball together in the offseason and several are the best of friends, such as the case in East Carter point guard Tyler Jackson and Ethan and Evan Faulkner.

“It’s a battle every time that both these teams step on the court,” Burge said. “We know that and they know that.”

Until the fourth quarter run, the Lions led throughout the contest after hitting 9-of-13 field goals in the first quarter to take a 22-12 lead.

The trio of the Faulkners — Ethan and Evan — along with Jonathon Ferguson accounted for 26 of the Lions’ 34 first half points as Elliott County held a 34-28 advantage going into the locker room. However, Baker’s adjustments turned the tide in the second half, as the trio only mustered 13 total points.

Ferguson ended the contest with 12 points while Evan Faulkner finished with 12 points for Elliott County before fouling out late. Tommy Dearfield and Drew Johnson each added nine points for the Raiders.



EAST CARTER (58) — Bair 6, Burge 27, Johnson 9, Jackson 1, Sagraves 4, Dearfield 9, Knipp 2, Jordan. FT: 18-27. 3-Point FGs: 6 (Burge 4, Johnson, Bair). PF: 19.

ELLIOTT COUNTY (57) — Et. Faulkner 16, Ev. Faulkner 11, C. Knipp, Ferguson 12, Maynard 9, Greene 4, Morgan 2, T. Knipp 3, Center, Flanery. FT: 12-18. 3-Point FGs: 3 (Maynard 2, Knipp). PF: 24.

EAST 12 16 13 17 — 58

ELLIOTT 22 12 11 12 — 57

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