Expected to finish third or fourth in the 62nd District when the season began, Morgan County now has a slim chance of grabbing the No. 1 seed.
Thanks to a second consecutive win over East Carter, the latest a 52-41 victory on Tuesday night in Grayson, Morgan County has assured itself of at least the second spot come district tournament time — it takes place in three weeks at Elliott County High School.
The Cougars (10-13) will take a five-game winning streak into next Monday’s meeting with district-leading West Carter in Olive Hill. A win there is necessary to keep hopes of the top spot alive.
The Cougars have steadfastly improved around their new centerpiece, 6-foot-9 center Jagos Lasic, a foreign exchange student from Serbia.
With Lasic, who averages 21 points and 15 rebounds, Morgan County is 6-5. He joined the team right as the calendar turned to 2012.
On Tuesday, he tallied 19 points and 19 rebounds in a physical contest.
“He is very skilled,” said Morgan County coach Matthew Perry. “He gives us that presence inside to alter and block shots, and he can also score and get to the free-throw line.”
The spindly senior hit 11 of 14 free throws, with eight of those makes coming in the fourth quarter. Lasic has drawn some interest from Northern Kentucky, Xavier, Cincinnati and numerous Division II schools, according to Perry.
East Carter (8-13) has been reeling of late, as the Raiders have dropped four straight.
Raiders coach Brandon Baker said his team must gain confidence sometime in between now and the district tournament for the Raiders to emerge successful in a possible rematch with Morgan County. It would be the fourth meeting — East Carter beat the Cougars, 55-46, in early December in the EKC Tournament. The Raiders lost to them last week, 56-55.
“Once we see some positive play and get some success, I think that’ll energize our team for the stretch run,” Baker said. “It’s easy to pull apart in times like this, but I still believe in our team.”
East Carter fell victim to the same issue that’s constantly plagued the Raiders during the current skid — foul trouble.
Kyle Stewart, the team’s second-leading scorer, played sparingly and fouled out with 3:22 left. The junior had 10 points and two rebounds.
“We’ve got to keep him on the floor, that’s no secret,” Baker said.
“We’ve got to figure out ways to play a little more intelligently and make plays to win games,” he added. “We’re playing very frustrated and we’re putting a lot of added pressure on ourselves.”
Dylan Genung led the Raiders with 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter.
Genung darted to the glass on a quick move to lay in a bucket to give East Carter a 32-31 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, and then he sank a free throw to give the Raiders a 35-34 advantage early in the fourth. But that’s the last lead the Raiders would have, as Morgan County then reeled off eight straight unanswered points, all from the foul line.