Miranda H. Lewis
Carter County Times
The winter months have almost passed us by, and our calendars are finally flipped to March, which kickstarts the best time of the year as a high school basketball fan.
Teams across Kentucky are hoping for a long tournament run as regional tournaments are well underway.
Up until Thursday evening, this year’s regional tournament had been lackluster at best, there had been no buzzer-beaters, upsets, or incredible comeback wins of the sort that keep us on the edge of our seats.
All that changed on Thursday when the Raiders faced off against Boyd County in a fight that lasted till the final buzzer at Morehead State University’s Ellis T. Johnson Arena. In the end, though, the Lions came out on top.
Boyd County bested East Carter 60-51 in a win-or-go-home 16th Region Tournament.
After the barnburner, no one could say the Raiders didn’t fight for its tournament life, overcoming several deficits, including a six point deficit with 2:15 to go in regulation.
There were big stops and even bigger shots. Players hustled and scrambled for loose balls on the floor amid a tangle of arms and legs. There were dramatic drives and clutch free-throw shooting, frantic coaches and spent players – exactly what teams at this point in the season do in survive and advance mode.
The Lions closed out the first half on a 12-2 run.
East Carter trailed by ten points at the intermission, 30-20.
The Raiders achilles heel was their turnover problem, they tallied fourteen at halftime.
And to make matters worse, Boyd County capitalized on those missed opportunities with a staggering 21-2 edge in points off turnovers.
Fortunately, East Carter’s rebounding kept them in the game.
The Lions trailed the rebound battle 18-7 at the half.
The Raiders made pivotal changes in their defensive structure in the second half and that ultimately proved to be the catalyst behind their second half surge.
They forced multiple turnovers to overcome a thirteen-point deficit.
The Raiders not only outscored the Lions 8-6 in the third frame, but they also dictated the pace of the game.
East Carter kept it close and ground the Lions lead down to six with a jumper from Evan Goodman at the 1:21 mark of the final stanza, 45-39.
The Raiders needed that basket and every other one they could get in a back-and-forth battle that featured scoring droughts and spurts with margins as small as three points and as large as thirteen, the affair also saw two ties along the way.
East Carter passed the gut-check test, however.
Blake Hall capitalized on and-1 to bring the game back to one possession (44-47) with less than a minute remaining in regulation.
Connor Skaggs intercepted a pass with thirty seconds remaining, prompting every Raider fan in the arena to their feet.
Goodman was fouled on the ensuing possession and stepped up to the line to nail both free-throws, chipping Boyd County’s lead to one point with 29 seconds remaining in regulation.
Skaggs stepped into the Lions’ passing zone once more to pick off a pass with the clock dwindling.
With 5.9 seconds left and East Carter trailing 46-47, the Raiders had a chance to take the lead for the game’s final stretch.
Goodman was at the line for two more free throws. His first shot was good, tying the game 47-all.
The shot prompted a timeout from Boyd County coach Randy Anderson.
Following the break, Goodman missed his second free throw attempt and the Lions rebounded to send up a half-court heave with mere seconds remaining, however, the possession went fruitless, and sent the game into overtime.
Rhett Holbrook and Jacob Spurlock drained back-to-back dagger three-pointers to give the Lions a decisive six-point lead in overtime, drifting the momentum in their favor for good.
Boyd County’s 13-4 run in the extra four minutes proved costly and gave the Lions a nine point lead they would not relinquish.
East Carter’s valiant upset effort fell short as the final buzzer sounded.
Spurlock led the Lions in scoring with 19 points, followed by Cole Hicks with 17.
Despite the early regional exit, it was a stellar season for the Raiders.
The Raider squad ended the 2022-2023 season with a 19-11 record, touting their most wins since 2010.
“I am extremely proud of this team’s grit and determination,” said Coach Cole Brammer of his team. “They are a very tough group that always seem to give our team a chance game after game.”
The Raiders benefitted from a monster performance from Skaggs as he erupted for a career-high 20 points and 17 rebounds to end his high school basketball career.
Hall finished with twelve points, and Goodman had nine for East Carter.
Aside from Skaggs, Cason Adams, Isaac Boggs and Rylan Yoak will also depart the Raiders.
Brammer shared his respect and admiration for his four seniors.
“I am thankful for our seniors who have put in so much time and effort into our basketball program,” he said. “I greatly appreciate that.”
While most people are looking forward to the start of baseball season, Brammer is looking ahead to the 2023-2024 basketball season, as the Raiders will return a wealth of players to set up another successful run next year.
“I look forward to the core of our team returning for the upcoming season,” he said. “We are excited for the future and very hungry to get back to work this summer.”
Boyd Co.- 12 19 6 10 13 – 60
E. Carter– 7 13 8 19 4 – 51
Boyd County (60)- FG Pct.: 43.1. FT Pct.: 47.1. 3-pointers: 40.0 (Spurlock 5-8, Hicks 1-5, Holbrook 1-5, Smith 1-1, Griffin 0-2) PF: 15. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 9.
East Carter (51)– FG Pct.: 36.7. FT Pct.: 63.2. 3-pointers: 20.0 (Ty. Scott 2-2, Goodman 1-4, Tate Scott, Hall, Sexton). PF: 18. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 21.