By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Feb. 5, 2014 — There were plenty of angry faces to go around back on Jan. 20 in Grayson. Ashland and East Carter were set to warm up and play before the weather forced the game to be postponed until last Thursday.
The same intensity was shown then as the No. 7 Lady Raiders and Kittens would put on an instant classic as East held on to a 48-47 victory.
“It gave us a lot of motivation,” Freshman Haley Hall said. “We’ve been looking forward to this game since it got canceled the first time. We’ve just tried to work harder every practice got get ready for it.”
The two did not disappoint, as there were five ties and six lead changes, mostly in the second half and big time moments that gave the game a Regional Tournament atmosphere.
Ashland had a one point lead going in to the fourth quarter but a basket by Hall and a Kitten turnover led to a Bryana Greenhill basket gave East (21-1) the lead just 39 seconds in to the final period.
As the two teams traded baskets, the play of the game came under a minute to go after Ashland’s Alexis Robinson got the ball in transition and what would seem to be a wide open layup to tie the game. Greenhill sprinted down the floor and poked the ball away from Robinson forcing a turnover to give the ball back to East Carter.
“I knew we had to stop the ball because she had done that all night long dribbling up and down the court and get layups on us,” Greenhill said. “We talked about that at halftime about how to stop her from doing that.”
“She hurt us a lot, especially in the first half in transition,” East Coach Hager Easterling said. “She’s too big and too skilled and jumps too well and she draws fouls and she scores on you.”
“I saw that developing and then I saw No. 5 (Greenhill) shoot like Secretariat out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby. She was determined to make that play.”
Robinson had torched the Lady Raiders for 24 points with most of them coming from driving inside and drawing contact to get the free throw line.
“We got what we wanted with her on a breakaway but Greenhill is a great athlete,” Bradley said. “We were all screaming and we all saw her coming. It was just a great play on her part.”
Easterling, who loves analogies, had one for this game. It reminded him of former Heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Frazier.
“He was never a pretty boxer and lowered his head came after his opponent,” Easterling said.
He thought there were two Fraziers were competing Thursday night in Grayson.
“Both teams just fought and scratched and battled,” Easterling said. “Both teams made the other make tough shots. It was fun to watch and I’m just tickled for our kids that they came out on top.”
After three free throws in the last minute, Robinson would hit a three with 14.7 seconds left. In an attempt to ice the game, junior Kelsey Stumbo missed two free throws with 7.8 seconds left. There was a fight for the loose ball after it bounced off the rim awkwardly but it gave Ashland the ball with 3.8 seconds left.
Robinson’s heave at half court as time expired had the distance but was off the mark.
Hall had 12 points for East while Kristen Mayo and Stumbo each had nine. Megan Stickler and Greenhill each scored eight points in the victory.
In what was the biggest crowd Easterling had seen in East Carter’s gym in more than a decade, he praised not only Ashland, but his team for not disappointing the crowd.
“Everybody wants to coach a team that embraces the spotlight and embraces big games,” Easterling said. “I’ve had teams that shied away from these games. …This team doesn’t do that. They love playing in this type of atmosphere.”
“We knew it was going to be a good game,” Hall said. “We had to just do the things that we do to get the win.”
“It was a close game and it sort of hit us that we’re not ahead in the game like we have been in others,” Greenhill said. “We had to fight to the finish I had to step up when my team needed me to so I did.”
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.