It seems like every time East Carter and Morgan County meet, it’s a war. Friday night at East Carter High School was no different.
Morgan County defeated East Carter 59-56 in a game that featured four technicals, four players foul out and even a fan ejected from the gym.
Cougars coach Matthew Perry said Friday’s game has been the typical Morgan County-East Carter matchup the past few years.
“It’s been a battle usually,” Perry said. “We know coming in to (East Carter) it’s a tough place to play. I’ve had some good basketball teams in my 12 years here and come in here and not win. So we’ve got a pretty good team here.”
What’s more impressive for Perry is that most of his team has been battling flu-like symptoms throughout the week.
At Thursday’s practice, Morgan County could suit up only six players on a roster that features 16.
The player who was hit the hardest was senior forward Aleksandar Malinic, who Perry said was out of it after the game in the locker room.
“He’s drained,” Perry said. “He’s totally exhausted and (East Carter) is the reason for that. I thought East was prepared tonight, I thought they brought energy. They wanted this game for district superiority, but we’ve got it right now.”
Malinic finished the game with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, but had to earn it against a good game plan from East Carter.
The Raiders played a lot of 2-3 matchup zone and kept two men near Malinic at all times.
East Carter coach Brandon Baker said his team had to counter such a height disadvantage against the 6-foot-7 Serbian transfer.
“We didn’t want him to catch it deep,” Baker said. “With his size we had to give him a lot of attention, but it was tough with (Jordan) Perry on the perimeter. They like to spread you out where you have to guard a penetrator, a shooter and a post player. For the most part we did OK.”
It was Jordan Perry’s cold-blooded approach to the foul line that doomed East Carter.
The freshman had a game-high 20 points, with 12 coming at the free-throw line in the second half. At one point Perry made 10 straight from the charity stripe.
According to coach, and dad, Matthew, even Jordan wasn’t immune to the flu bug going around. That would explain his 3 for 5 night from the floor.
“We need him on the floor from the perspective that he can score, but we need him healthy,” Perry said. “When he’s healthy he’s going to be more aggressive. I thought tonight he was passive early on. He was 1 of 3 at halftime and my exact words to him at halftime were ‘If you don’t start shooting the basketball, sick or not, we’re beat. You have to find a way to get shots.’”
After trailing 16-6 after the first quarter, East Carter made a move to get back in the game, going on a 13-2 run in the opening four minutes of the second quarter.
Throughout the entire game it was senior Kyle Stewart who was asked to make the big shots.
He also made some good post moves around the bigger Malinic for some easy layups as well.
But, according to Baker, it seemed like every time Stewart got momentum, he was called for a foul — or, more importantly, a foul wasn’t called against the Cougars.
“I wish he could get some of the whistles the other guys get, because he keeps getting the short end of the stick,” Baker said. “He always gets beat to death and never gets his fair share of the whistle. It’s hard to keep him pumped up and it’s tough as a coach when you have to be a psychologist at the same time and get his head right to play.”
Stewart seemed frustrated too after picking up his fourth foul on what he felt was a block. He screamed out of frustration and was given a technical, his fifth and final foul.
Baker said he doesn’t blame Stewart for getting a little to emotional with his response.
“I can’t be mad at Kyle because it was a very emotional game,” Baker said. “It shouldn’t get to that point, that needs cleaned up. You clean that up early and it doesn’t get to that point.”
Without Stewart, East Carter was down 58-51 with a minute to go. The Raiders got it down to 58-56 with 19 seconds left but couldn’t get a final shot off.
Along with Stewart, East Carter (7-10) had Jordan Burchett finish with 11 points and Quinn Huddle 12.
Samuel Aguirre finished with 16 points for Morgan County (12-4).
Morgan County is in action again tonight, when it hosts Rose Hill in the opening round of the 16th Region All “A” Classic.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.