By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Dec. 18, 2013 — East Carter Coach Hager Easterling admitted it’s sweet to repeat.
The Lady Raiders accomplished something they never have this past Thursday night when they repeated as the East Kentucky Conference Tournament champions for the first time in school history as they defeated Fleming County 68-48 at Rowan County Senior High School.
“I thought we played some really good basketball in some spurts,” Easterling said. “We were playing a hot team … and a very good team. I thought we shared the ball really well. We were patient, and we found the open person. We don’t have two or three designated people that we want to shoot the ball.”
East (6-0) did everything right. They out-rebounded the Lady Panthers 40-27 and held an 18-9 advantage on the offensive boards, had 20 points off turnovers, hit seven-three point shots to Fleming’s one and had 10 more second-chance points.
Out of those staggering numbers, Easterling cannot help but smile when he sees the result on the battle of the boards.
“That’s a product of being after the basketball,” Easterling said. “We’re not standing around waiting to see if it goes on or which way it bounces. You’re active before it hits the rim.”
The Lady Raiders were a little slow out of the gate and Fleming took advantage by grabbing an early lead.
“They were really getting up and down the floor and making us look stagnant,” Easterling said. “We were having trouble doing what we needed to do without saying it. From the second quarter on, we attacked their zone and got off some really good shots.”
Easterling went to his bench early and they responded by scoring seven of the team’s 13 points in the opening quarter. Abby Damron’s three-point basket in the corner gave East a 13-12 advantage after the first period. Kaylee Limmings would score a quick six points.
“She had some big offensive rebounds and some put backs and she’s capable of doing that,” Easterling said.
East would take a 32-21 lead in to the half and never looked back. In the second half, junior Kelsey Stumbo would make a great defensive play, followed by a basket by senior Bryana Greenhill to help win the tournament crown for the undefeated Lady Raiders.
“Each year we know we need to leave a legacy we hope this is just the start of it,” Greenhill said. “We want to keep going and make this a special year.”
Megan Stickler led the Lady Raiders with 15 points and nine rebounds. Greenhill chipped in with with 12 points, Haley Hall had 11. Kristen Mayo had seven of East’s 15 assists.
“We changed presses and we got them tired a little bit,” Stickler said. “We were able to knock down some open shots and attack the glass. It was an overall team effort to win.”
Fleming County had cut the lead to 14 in the second half but East weathered the storm as Alexis Pennington’s three-point basket in the fourth squashed any comeback the Lady Panthers had in mind.
East Carter would earn a 79-59 win over Scott County in the Capitol City Rumble on Saturday and a 62-30 home victory over Morgan County. The Lady Raiders will hit the road for the Republic Bank Classic in Lexington this weekend.
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.