By Zack Klemme - CNHI News Service
Feb. 5, 2014 —
Brandon Baker said he didn’t want East Carter to dwell on letting an upset opportunity slip away against Fleming County on Monday night.
But after the Raiders defeated Ashland, 61-60, last Tuesday night, it was pretty clear they took a sense of unfinished business from their setback about 24 hours prior.
“That just motivates us,” junior guard Connor Greene said of toppling the Tomcats. “This gets us ready for tournament time. We go in there with energy.”
East Carter trailed Ashland 50-49 halfway through the fourth quarter, but Greene canned a 3-pointer off Qua Davis’ offensive rebound with 3:42 to play in the game, putting the Raiders ahead to stay.
Greene led all scorers with 18 points as the Raiders (9-9) ended a four-game losing streak to Ashland. Cameron Sparks netted 11 points and Donald Damron added 10 for East Carter.
Christian Villers came off the bench to lead the Tomcats (13-5) with 14 points. Ross Thompson pitched in 13 and Nick Miller had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Tomcats’ Steven Friley led all rebounders, cleaning the glass 13 times, but was held to six points as East Carter focused on negating Ashland’s significant size advantage in the post.
“(East Carter was) playing a sagging 2-3 zone, and to be frank, that’s the book on us,” Tomcats coach Buddy Biggs said. “We’re gonna see a lot of packed-in man-to-man and 2-3 zones the rest of the way because we’re struggling to shoot the basketball.”
The Raiders, meanwhile, took a perceived disadvantage down low as a challenge.
“Defensively, we don’t give in to situations where people say we’re at a disadvantage,” Baker said. “We don’t give in to that. We don’t let that come into play; we try to spin it to where it’s advantageous for us.”
Ashland did still enjoy a 36-19 edge on the glass and shot 47.4 percent from the field to the Raiders’ 37.3 percent.
But East Carter hit 17 of its 22 free throws, a 77.3-percent clip, while the Tomcats were 18-for-30 — 60 percent — at the charity stripe.
“I thought they played harder than we did, and I thought they knocked down free throws,” Biggs said. “I thought that was a big difference. We didn’t make our free throws; they made theirs.”
Ashland owned the biggest lead of the night at 32-24 when its big boys — Friley and Miller — combined for the first eight points of the second half and Robert Wesley drained a trey.
The Tomcats still led 36-30 on Damantie Thornton’s 3 with 1:55 to go in the third frame, but the Raiders scored five straight points on Damron’s and-1 and one free throw each from Davis and Greene, and the game stayed nip and tuck the rest of the way.
The Tomcats committed 20 turnovers to East Carter’s eight.
“We just had to take care of the ball and we just had to find the open man,” Greene said. “We’ve got so many good shooters on our team, and we find guys open and knock down shots.”
They knocked down enough to knock off one of the 16th Region’s elite, one night after falling to the Panthers, 67-65, when their last-second 3 for the win didn’t fall.
“Very happy for our guys because we all left the gym last night with just a bad feeling in our gut there,” Baker said. “Fleming County’s a really good team, and we had our chance down the stretch, we just (missed) some execution there, and it was just a bad feeling.”
East Carter had lost five of its previous seven games after winning five straight in December.
“Their confidence should be soaring right now after nearly upsetting Fleming last night and beating us fair and square tonight,” Biggs said. “They should understand that they can compete with anybody in the region after these two games.”
Baker did caution against getting too excited about playing well in two regular season games.
“It has no impact as far as deciding who goes to the region,” the coach said, “so we’ve gotta keep working.”
Tomcats starting forward Tyler Stewart didn’t dress after injuring his ankle in practice over the weekend, Biggs said. He expects Stewart to be out “at least for a week.”