By MATT FULTZ
For The Independent
What was supposed to be the first round of the battle for Carter County turned out to be nothing more than a lightly contested skirmish.
The Lady Raiders of East Carter came out firing, connecting on four 3-pointers in the opening quarter, to quickly bury their rivals from the west with a 15-point deficit.
There was no let-up after the initial onslaught either, as the Lady Raiders continued to rack up points on their way to a 60-21 victory over the Lady Comets on Friday night at East Carter High School.
West Carter (3-7) dared East Carter to shoot it from the outside early, as it came out in a sagging 2-3 zone.
“That was a good strategy by Bart (Stevens),” East Carter coach Hager Easterling said. “A lot of times in an East-West game, or any rivalry game, if you start out in a zone and the other team starts missing then they start tightening up. I’m sure that is what he was hoping for.”
Only problem for West Carter was that East Carter rarely missed, and the only thing tight about them was its defense.
In all, the Lady Raiders connected on seven 3-pointers, including three by eighth-grade point guard Kristen Mayo. Mayo led all scorers with 15 points.
“I liked the way that we stepped up and found people,” Easterling said. “One of these days we are going to shoot the ball really, really well, because we are good shooters. I’m not sure what we were like — 7 of 22 or around there — but I don’t think that we took a challenged three in the bunch.”
The combination of East’s shooting from the outside and pressure defense proved to be too much for an inexperienced West Carter team to handle.
“We could not handle it well enough to handle their shooting,” Stevens said. “They were hitting threes and we were making turnovers and that is a bad combination.”
The Lady Raider press forced the Lady Comets into 20 turnovers.
But it isn’t just the steals that make East Carter’s press effective, it’s also the mental and physical toll it takes on opponents.
“People think if you are not getting steals that your press is not being effective, but that is not the case,” Easterling said. “We press for a variety of reasons. Yeah, we want steals and easy shots, but we are also wearing the other team out. We are making them start their offense higher on the court, and taking them out of what they want to do.”
While the press can wear out an opponent, it can also be taxing in the defenders playing it, but Easterling doesn’t have to worry about that do much, because of his team’s depth.
The Lady Raiders (9-4) regularly play 10 players, with not much of a dropoff from 1 through 10.
“The kids coming off of the bench are starting to play with more confidence,” Easterling said. “They are playing loose and with more joy. We have a lot of perfectionists on this team, and that is not necessarily good in sports.”
The Lady Raider bench, led by Haley Hall, contributed 21 points against West Carter. She finished with eight.
Brooke Adkins was the top scorer for West Carter. She tallied eight points.