MOREHEAD--Lewis County’s reputation as a difficult out in the Boys 16th Region Tournament lives on.
The Lions entered with 18 losses Friday night but hung with East Carter most of the way in their first-round game at Morehead State University.
East Carter’s reliable B and B combination proved to be too much, however.
Seniors Kyle Bair and Colt Barnhill carried their team to a 50-41 victory in a matchup of the regional runner-up finishers in 2009 (Lewis County) and ‘08 (East Carter).
Bair, a 6-foot-2 guard, delivered on both ends of the court with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“We did a good job playing zone, but Bair found seams and knocked down some key shots,’’ said Lewis County coach Joe Hampton.
Barnhill also came through in a big way for the Raiders. He produced 17 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in a post battle against Lewis County junior Koty Riley.
Bair and Barnhill each shot 8-for-14 from the field.
Friday’s game had 13 lead changes in the first half and Lewis County closed to 35-32 with 6:33 remaining on Kurt Cropper’s 3-pointer from the top of the key.
“They were prepared and ready to have a dogfight,’’ Bair said. “They were trying to pull off an upset.’’
Bair, Barnhill and the rest of the Raiders didn’t allow it to happen.
Bair hit a shot from the baseline, Barnhill made a putback and Barnhill found Bair open under the basket for a layup to give East Carter some breathing room.
The Raiders maintained at least a six-point advantage the rest of the way to turn back the Lions.
“This one was very big,’’ Bair said after the Raiders advanced to tonight’s semifinals against Ashland. “We just have to get prepared for the next game.’’
East Carter (21-5) improved to 20-1 against region opponents and Bair said the Raiders’ latest win followed a pattern.
“We always seem to have a barnburner at first, then in the fourth quarter we pick it up,’’ Bair said.
Caleb Adams helped nail down East Carter’s latest win by making six free throws in the final 1:15. He finished with 10 points and three steals.
The Raiders beat Lewis County by 12 and 15 points early in the season, but Baker was well aware of the Lions’ gritty regional tournament tradition.
“They turn it up a notch,’’ Baker said. “Lewis County played really inspired. Their guys believed if they got here they would have a chance to win. It’s a credit to coach Hampton. He gets his guys ready to compete. They had that look in their eyes.’’
Lewis County (11-19) shot 51 percent for the game and led 21-20 at halftime.
But East Carter opened the second half with an 11-3 run fueled by nine points from Barnhill and Bair.
“In the third quarter we had some costly turnovers that allowed East Carter to pull ahead a little bit,’’ Hampton said. “We cut back into the lead, but never overcame that.’’
Riley paced the Lions with 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 3265-2671.
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