WEST LIBERTY – The scoreboard showed that East Carter won its second straight 62nd District Championship but to Hager Easterling, his team did not play Lady Raider basketball.
East defeated West Carter 56-22 for their 29th victory of the season Thursday night at Morgan County High School. The majority of those wins came with tough defense and an aggressive mindset in all three phases.
They shot 33.9 percent from the field, and only won the rebounding battle by one (32-31) but did not show the tenacity that Easterling wanted to see at this time of the year.
“It might have been good enough tonight but that’s not going to be good enough next week,” Easterling said. “It’s got to be 32 minutes of East Carter basketball.”
“I don’t like the mindset we’re playing with,” Easterling said. “We don’t have that aggressive attack and that confident look that we’ve had all season. With all of the good basketball we’ve played this year, we seem hesitant sometimes. That’s not going to be good enough next week.”
West Carter (11-14) was shorthanded as leading scorer Morgan Berry suffered a sprained LCL in Monday’s win against Elliott County. The Lady Comets, while shorthanded, slowed the game down in the first quarter, limiting possessions and taking an early 6-5 lead after a jumper from senior Leatha Reynolds.
From then on, the Lady Raiders got back to playing East Carter basketball. They forced 11 of West’s 32 turnovers in the second period, while going on a 28-5 run that bled in to the third quarter.
“I didn’t think we were active and ready to go after the basketball whether it was a rebound or a deflection,” Easterling said. “We can be so active and beat people to loose balls and rebounds. We didn’t do a good job of that this week.”
Junior Megan Stickler, who had 10 points agreed with her coach about their slow start.
“He just told us to get after loose balls and fight harder than they do,” Stickler said. “We had to mark up on key players through that stretch. We knew (Lexie) Berry is a good three-point shooter and (point guard Leatha Reynolds) is good at driving the basket.”
West Carter went through another dry spell, not getting a basket for 13 minutes. A jumper by Lexie Berry with 7:23 left in the ballgame.
Combined with the turnovers, the Lady Comets could not establish any rhythm to get back in the ball game.
“We just turned the ball over too many times,” Lady Comets Coach Bart Stevens said. “A lot of them were unnecessary. We didn’t look down the floor enough to find the open man.”
As bad as West played offensively, Stevens like how his team played on the other end of the floor as they forced East to miss 39 shots.
“Our defense was great,” Stevens said. “We just couldn’t score.”
The win gives Easterling 399 in his 18 seasons at the helm of the Lady Raider program and his seventh 62nd District Championship.
“It’s awesome but we just have to remember this is just one step to our ultimate goal which is a Regional Championship and get to the state tournament,” Stickler said.
East Carter will have a few days of practice before playing in the 16th Region Tournament next week at Morehead State University.
He’s looking for his team to get their mojo back.
“I know that we are very much better than what we’ve shown throughout this tournament,” Easterling said. “If we go out there and play as well as I know we can, we’re a really good team. Let’s get back to that mindset. We need to find out if these girls know what mindset they need to be in before next week.”
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.
62nd District All Tournament Team: East Carter (Stickler, Mayo, Greenhill, Stumbo). West Carter: (Reynolds, L. Berry, S. Easterling) Morgan County Ferguson, Cole). Elliott County (B. Worthington, S. Worthington).
WEST CARTER 6 5 5 6 - 22
EAST CARTER 7 20 17 12 - 56
West Carter (22) — L. Berry 7, Reynolds 4, B. Easterling 2, Evans 3, S. Easterling 2, Bear 3, Fountain 1. PF: 16. Fouled out: None. FT: 6-11. 3-point FGs: 2 (L. Berry, Bear)
East Carter (56) — Stickler 10, Greenhill 9, Hall 5, Mayo 4, Stumbo 6, Brainard 5, Limings 4, Langstaff 2, Pennington 3, Bayes 6, Clarke 2. PF. 11. Fouled out: None. FT: 14-23. 3-point FGs: 2 (Greenhill, Hall)