By Ray Schaefer - CNHI News Service
Feb. 5, 2014 —
East Carter did something Friday it hasn't done in boys basketball in four years.
The Raiders swept the regular season series against rival West Carter for the first time since 2010 thanks to a 51-44 road victory at John “Hop” Brown Court behind Cole Brammer's 16 points and Cameron Sparks’ 11.
“It means a lot,” Sparks said. “(West has) been our rival for a long time now. It’s a big thing for us. Maybe we’ll see them again in the (62nd) district (tournament)…”
Brammer said his 9-for-9 effort from the free-throw line saved him because he missed nine of 12 field goals. “We were rushing shots early, all of us did,” he said. “We just couldn’t get into a groove, get into momentum shots. That’s a compliment to West; they did a good job of making us rush our shots.”
East Carter coach Brandon Baker said the game was won at the foul line. The Raiders made 15-of-17 (88.2 percent) to West’s 14-of-25 (56 percent).
“I don't think there’s any doubt,” Baker said. “Cole really stepped up late game. In the late game, he made six straight.
“It was just a tough game for us, we never got in a rhythm, never got settled in. Credit West Carter.”
West Carter coach Jeremy Webb said free-throw shooting was not the only reason for what happened.
“We turned the basketball over three more times (15-12 for the night) than they did,” he said. “As a coach, we look at one point per possession, that’s what we strive for in regards to the game. We lost three points there, we gave up five more offensive rebounds (13-8) than what we got … There’s five points, so that's eight points in those two categories that cost us the game.”
East also scored 16 points off turnovers to West's 10, 16 second-chance points to the Comets' five and 13 points off the bench to West's five.
The one thing West (5-11) wanted to do was utilize its taller front line, especially center Ben Jordan (eight points, seven rebounds), which the Comets hoped would neutralize East's man-to-man defense.
Sometimes it worked.
After a pair of Dalton Spurlock free throws (he scored a game-high 13 points), West went on an 8-3 run. Jordan’s four points included a stick-back and a five-foot jumper in the paint.
East (10-9) didn't score until Greene’s layup a little more than two minutes in, and the Raiders didn’t get another field goal until Brammer’s 3-pointer some two minutes later.
Jacob Layne’s cross-court pass to Jordan and the resulting layup made it 10-7 West with 3:06 to go. Problem was, it was the Comets’ last field goal (Jordan missed two-of-four free throws), while Greene-to-Evan Brooks with a little more than a minute remaining let East hang around at 12-9.
West opened the second quarter with a 5-2 run on Chase Hanshaw’s three from the right corner and Braden Brown’s two, but those were the Comets' only points for over three minutes.
East — more specifically Greene and Brammer — launched a comeback: Greene’s two 3-pointers and Brammer’s five points pulled the Raiders ahead 22-17, a good thing for them because the Raiders missed four shots over the final 2:12.
East’s defense was pretty good, too. West didn’t score for just over three minutes, but Spurlock and Brown kept the Comets close over the final 2:07 and pulled to 22-21 at intermission.
West attacked the basket early in the third quarter, and it paid off — Spurlock’s layup off Jordan’s screen put the Comets up, 24-22. A Spurlock 15-footer, Layne's six points led to a 36-32 advantage with a quarter to play.
Spurlock led West with 13 points. Layne added 12.
Perhaps Brooks’ two most important baskets (he finished with nine points and seven rebounds) came midway through the fourth quarter. A layup conversion of Qua Davis’ interior pass put East ahead, 42-40, with 4:01 remaining, and his bucket nearly three minutes later gave the Raiders a 44-42 lead they didn't relinquish.
East’s 2-2-1 full-court press forced West into a quicker tempo than it wanted, but the free throw futility hurt most. In a little less than three minutes, Layne, Jordan and Dalton Brown each missed the front end of 1-and-1 bonuses, and Layne made one of two.
The Raiders, meanwhile, made last minute free throws. Brammer was 4-of-4, Sparks made two and Brooks added one.