By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
March 6, 2014 — The East Carter Lady Raiders are heading to the 16th Region Championship after defeating Russell 51-38 in the semifinals on Thursday night at Morehead State University.
The Lady Raiders (31-2) used a 17-0 run midway through the second half that helped East advance to its first regional championship since the 2009-10 season.
The Lady Raiders hit seven three’s, six of them in the first half and forced 23 Russell turnovers. The number’s weren’t great. East shot 17-of-52 from the field (32.7 percent), but Coach Hager Easterling said he’ll take a win when they shoot like that any time.
“We started out shooting well and we got a little settled,” Easterling said. “We didn’t take a bad shot the whole game but we were settling too quick when we could’ve gotten better shots. …Give Russell credit. They played a nice matchup and they did some smart things and (Russell Coach) Mandy (Layne) had them ready to go.”
East scored the first eight points of the game after three-point shots by Kristen Mayo and Megan Stickler and two free throws by Haley Hall. They would extend the lead to 14 poitns in the first on a triple by Ashley Bayes.
East would take a 26-17 lead in to halftime.
Russell would make a game of it in the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to eight at 30-24 on a Hannah Carter three-point basket. East would put the game away on a 17-0 run over a stretch of 5:04 between the third and fourth quarters, capped by an Alexis Pennington layup with 6:15 left in the game.
“For a long stretch, they started playing more physical and with more energy than we did,” Easterling said. “We said during the timeout, hey, we need to get our energy and confidence back up. That’s exactly what we did.”
“We started playing tougher, got our energy up, got some deflections and turned the momentum and energy around.”
Russell turned the ball over six times during the run that turned in to 13 points.
“I was really happy with our pressure,” Easterling said. “We got out of it when we needed to and we rotated out of it at times. Our zone really ignited the 17-0 run. We’ve fed off our defense all year long. We have to play good defense to win and we know that.”
Junior Megan Stickler would score 12 points and Haley Hall would add 11. East’s reserves combined for 14 points, nine coming from Bayes.
“The bench came through,” Easterling said. “They gave us some quality minutes and got some points. I was impressed with Ashley. She doesn’t usually score that many but she played with a lot of confidence tonight. All of them came in knew exactly what they were supposed to do.”
One area Easterling hopes to change before Frida night’s Championship game is the rebounding numbers. East was outrebounded by eight 33-25.
“We’re not the most physical team around,” Easterling said. “We just had to battle and box out and fight. …We’ll have to do better than that on the glass tomorrow night.”
Russell (21-12) was led by Carter and Maggie Jachimczuk, who each scored nine points.
The 16th Region Championship will be played Friday night at 7 p.m.