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It hasn’t been a banner year for the Trimble County Raiders varsity basketball team, but it has been exciting – particularly last week.
On Saturday, the Raiders handed a 49-40 loss to the Williamstown Bearcats at this year’s Homecoming game – revenge for an earlier match up in which Williamstown took a 66-58 victory.
That followed on the heels of a breath-taking win Tuesday, Feb. 1, against the Raiders’ arch rival, the Carroll County Panthers – also a home game.
Head Coach Bob Lauster said the second half of Saturday’s game was when the Raiders really took off. With possession after tip-off, Justin Webb and Skiler Alexander led the offensive. Shooting well from behind the arc, Alexander posted 24 points; Webb logged 13 points, followed by Zach Adair with 8, and Daniel Haney and Craig Ward with two points each.
“We eventually pulled Williamstown out of the zone and was able to knock down enough free throws to maintain a comfortable lead,” Lauster said. “Trimble County’s combination of man and zone defense was really solid.”
The Feb. 1 game against the Panthers, however, was a true nail-biter, with the Raiders stealing the win with a gaming-winning shot by Adair at the final horn. It was a shot that brought Trimble fans to their feet.
Carroll enjoyed a 12-point lead early in the third period, but the determined Raiders turned things around in the fourth.
A trey by Skiler Alexander got things started, bringing the score to 43-41 in favor of the Raiders. After a Panther basket and free-throws, the score evened out to a 45-all deadlock with 2:59 left in the game. It was a tense minute and a half before Raider Stuart Barnes weaseled between three Panther defenders for another shot home and a 47-45 lead.
Another Panther basket tied the game again, this time with just 27 seconds left on the clock. Lauster called his final timeout with 15.4 seconds left to play. Seeing the Raiders line up for the inbounds play, Yager called another timeout. With three fouls to give before sending the Raiders to the free-frow line, he instructed his team to foul – but not foul a shooter.
On the inbounds play, the Panthers’ Wise drew a foul and Trimble was forced to the sidelines again to inbound the ball at mid-court. With the ball back in play, Alexander found Adair just to the right of the free-throw lane and zipped him a pass. Adair made the shot on the buzzer, as the Carroll defenders were stepping out to inbound the ball.
And that, as they say, was the end of that.
“We had a 12-point lead there in the third quarter, and then we just totally got away from what got us up by 12,” an obviously disappointed Panther Head Coach Carroll Yager said following the game. “We took some bad shots. We quit playing on the defensive end there and let them get back in it. From there it was back and forth and back and forth.”
Lauster recognized the hard work the Panthers put into the game. “Towards the end of the game there, [the Panthers] were really denying us hard,” he said. “We were having trouble getting catches; it was about stepping up and making plays. Stuart Barnes hits a shot in the middle of the paint with his left hand. I’ve been trying to get him to use that now for about three years and he was able to do that so that was nice to see.”
But, in the end it was Alexander’s cool-headedness that took the game. “I thought Skiler did a really good job of being patient enough to find the open man, and that’s hard to do when you’ve got a lot of pressure on and you try to throw the ball inbounds,” Lauster said. “I think he may have inbounded that thing at about 4.98 seconds. A seam opened up. Zach flashed through the seam and was able to get a catch and then he made a play.”
Lauster said the win was a nice boost for his ball club as they made ready to play nine games in the final 20 days of the season leading up to district tournament play.