By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Jan. 16, 2013 — In keeping up with the norm in the series between East Carter and Morgan County, it's the “knockout punches” in a boxing match for either team to come away with a victory.
It was no different in Grayson Friday night, but the Cougars came up with the knockout, surviving 59-56 after the Raiders rally came up empty. Four technical fouls were issued and four players fouled out of the contest.
East Carter Coach Brandon Baker was not surprised by both teams' physicality.
“Teams are very competitive and it was a hard-fought game,” Baker said. “Both teams are not going to back down and anytime you get that, you’re going to get (aggressive) play and it was just a good game.”
Aleksandar Malinic paced Morgan County (13-5) with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Freshman Jordan Perry scored 20 points with 12 of those coming from the free-throw line.
Baker said the game plan all along was to play physical down low despite the height advantage 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.”
Morgan County threw the first blow, racing out to a 16-6 lead after the first quarter. But in the second, it was the Raiders punching back with a 13-2 run in the opening four minutes. However, the Cougars led 23-22 at the break.
Senior Kyle Stewart stepped up, knocking down several big shots en route to leading his team with 16 points.
“It was a tough loss but we did get better,” Stewart said. “It’s a credit to our guys. We missed easy buckets and if we make those, it’s a different ballgame.”
But with some misfortunes for East in the fourth quarter, Stewart was called for a technical foul when he thought he stepped in for a charge. He yelled just one word at the officials and was given a technical, his fifth and final foul.
Baker said he doesn’t blame Stewart for getting a little too 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.”
Many teams could have folded when one of its leaders gets taken out of the game, but not East. Down 58-51 with one-minute left, the Raiders cut the lead to two, 58-56, with 19 seconds left, had a chance to win it, but turned the ball over with 3.5 seconds left.
“Our guys stuck with it and gave ourselves a chance in the end and that’s on me,” Baker said. “I didn’t have us late-game ready, it was exposed and I feel for my guys because I didn’t have them ready for that.”
Along with Stewart, East Carter (7-10) had Jordan Burchett finish with 11 points and Quinn Huddle 12. Conner Greene scored six, Trenton Welsh had five points and Cole Brammer scored four points.
The Raiders were back in action Tuesday night as they hit the road to take on Fleming County.
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.