By Grant Stevens - Sports Editor
Dec. 19, 2012 — Monday night’s affair pitting the East Carter Raiders (4-3) against the Mason County Royals (6-1) was a nail biter for fans at Harold Holbrook Gym East, but it shouldn’t have been.
Holding as much as an eight-point lead in the fourth period could not equal a win for East, as Mason County used the Raiders lack of proficiency at the foul line to climb back into the game, hitting a game-winning three at the buzzer to claim victory, 63-62.
While East Carter was an outstanding 9-of-16 from the three-point line for the game, the free throw line was a different story, where the home team only converted 11-of-33 attempts.
As the Royals kept inching closer in the fourth, East Carter kept missing chances to seal a victory, making 4-of-14 from the foul line in the final eight minutes.
East Carter Head Coach Brandon Baker said free throws was no doubt the difference maker.
“Obviously if you watched the game, you saw that we can shoot the ball,” Baker said. “I think we got a little too anxious on our free throws. We’re not an 11 for 33 free throw shooting team. We kept letting them hang, and if you give a good team like that a chance, they’re going to capitalize.”
Despite the free throw struggles, the Raiders were in control most of the night, kicking off the first period with four-straight threes by Quinn Huddle, Jordan Burchett, Kyle Stewart and Connor Greene.
East led Mason 15-10 by the time the first period had ended.
Senior guard Trenton Welsh found the hot hand midway through the second, dialing in two threes of his own to give East a 25-19 advantage with 3:19 to go before the half.
Mason County’s Lucas Greenhill and 6’ 7” center Shawn Johnson helped the visitors go on an 8-3 run to end the quarter, with East Carter still on top 28-27 at the half.
Huddle and Cole Brammer hit two more threes in the third period to compliment Stewart’s eight inside, with Stewart dishing off a nice feed to Brammer for a trey, tying the game at 43 as the third quarter buzzer sounded.
Burchett exploded for 10 in the final period, including five-straight in the opening minute.
A jumper by Steven Chambers with eight seconds to go was quickly followed with a foul on Burchett. After making one-of-two, the Raiders committed a foul to hold up the Royal push for a game-winner.
Throwing the ball in from the sidelines, Lucas Greenhill made his second three of the period at the buzzer, completing the comeback for Mason County.
Burchett had a team-high 16 points for East Carter, while Stewart had 15, Greene had 12 and Huddle contributed nine.
Johnson had a game-high 19 for Mason County.
Despite the loss, Baker says he was proud of his team’s effort against one of the 15th Region’s top teams.
“We had a good win over a good team Saturday against Shelbey Valley, and I was wondering how we would be able to handle that,” Baker said. “I can say we handled that pretty well here tonight. This is a tough one, but now we’re going to have to know how to handle it the other way, because it’s still December and we’ve got a long way to go until February.”
The Raiders take to the road this Thursday to take on Lawrence County at 3 p.m. in the Raceland Derby Classic.
Grant Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.