By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Jan. 22, 2014 — East Carter boys basketball coach Brandon Baker was not sure how his team would come out after an 11-day period in between games.
Up until last Tuesday’s game against 62nd District opponent Elliott County, the Raiders had not played a game since they defeated West Carter 48-26 on Jan. 3.
Against a Lions team that is much improved from a year ago, the Raiders fell into an early hole only to climb almost out of it late in the fourth quarter.
But Elliott County would hold on for the 68-59 win over East.
“It was out of our hands,” Baker said of taking 11 days between games. “If the layoff impacted anything, we played very scrambled. We hadn’t played as smoothly as we had been but some might say the layoff had to do with that but I say Elliott County had a lot to do with it.”
The Lions (13-6) are a very young team that starts three sophomores and with a freshman that comes off the bench early, the Lions are maturing at a quick pace. Junior Hunter Holbrook posted a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds and sophomore Collin Howell had eight points and 20 rebounds in the victory.
Elliott shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded East 45-17.
“That was unacceptable,” Baker said. “Credit to them, they played a lot more poised and got the ball to where they needed to score. That’s a sign of a good team.”
While Elliott could have ran away with the ballgame, East Carter battled back in the fourth quarter. They were down 49-36 after three quarters but began the final period on a 9-2 run. The Raiders cut the lead to four on senior Cole Brammer’s free throws with 2:06 to play.
“It was a sense of urgency that we had to play with,” Baker said. “I think that caused us to settle down and start attacking the basket. It cleared our minds and we stopped thinking and started playing. We just weren’t fortunate enough to make free throws when we needed to.”
But the Lions weathered the storm, getting two baskets plus foul shots in the final two minutes and added four more free throws to earn the nine-point victory.
“Elliott County played a lot better than we did,” Baker said. “We were kind of fortunate enough to get in striking distance in the fourth quarter but you can’t miss that many free throws and expect to win the game.”
The Lions spoiled a stellar performance by freshman Cameron Sparks. He scored 19 points and grabbed five rebounds in the win.
But Baker was not praising his young guard for his efforts on the offensive end.
“I think he played better defensively then he did offensively,” Baker said. “He really defended well and he’s a capable defender. But he did have a nice game for us.”
Brammer and Donald Damron each scored 12 points.
“We’re a scrappy bunch,” Baker said. “We’ll play the game hard and do what we need to do but we just can’t play that scrambled offensively. I thought we played over anxious in the first half and it caused us to miss some plays that we should’ve made.”
The Raiders were back in action last Friday night on the road at Morgan County. The Cougars needed overtime to defeat East 51-48. However, they rebounded on Monday night, defeating Russell 59-39. East Carter will play Greenup County at home on Thursday.
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.