MURRAY - Graves County may have entered its opening-round contest in the First Region boys basketball tournament with one of the top records in the field, but the Eagles did not resemble the role early on Saturday against Carlisle County.
After a few scoreless minutes that opened the game, Graves finished the first quarter with a 12-2 lead and went on from there for a 57-37 victory at Murray State's CFSB Center.
The Eagles have played only two games in the past two weeks: the season finale against Central Hardin and the Third District championship game against Mayfield. Eagles coach Terry Birdsong felt that such inactivity may have hindered his team early on.
"We expected to be a little rusty, and this is a game I was concerned about from a timing standpoint," Birdsong said. "It showed a little bit, but Carlisle had a good game plan. They cut it to three, but we had the poise of a veteran team and got it back up to seven or nine."
At times, Ethan Weatherspoon appeared to be the only force keeping the Comets in the contest. The sophomore guard provided just over half the Carlisle offense with 19 points. When he briefly left the game in the third with an injured knee, the Comets trailed 31-23. Justin Hayden quickly hit the game's first 3-pointer for Graves, and the Eagles never led by less than 10 after that.
Jake Williams led a spread-out Eagle offense with 12 points, while Peyton Puckett finished with 11. Zach Kimbler and Andrew Smith both scored nine points, and Eamon Hannan had eight.
Graves will need those players and others to contribute more in Monday's semifinal against McCracken County. The Mustangs won their Saturday game 55-48 and have already defeated the Eagles twice this season. Birdsong knows shooting will be key.
"It's a great challenge for us," Birdsong said. "It's why you play the game. We have a team that's beaten us twice. We shot the ball poorly both times. Our kids have been in this situation several times with the big games and we're looking forward to it."
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Carlisle County 2 14 24 37
Graves County 12 22 36 57
CARLISLE COUNTY - Carrico 9, Crider, Morefield, Norsworthy 2, Weatherspoon 19, Kellett 4, Edmaiston, Wilson, Stephens, French 3.
Field goals 14/31. 3-pointers 1/7 (French). Free throws 8/17. Record 14-17.
GRAVES COUNTY - Grant, A. Smith 9, J. Smith, Avent, Hannan 8, Puckett 11, Hayden 6, Williams 12, Murphy 2, Kimbler 9, E. Vogt.
Field goals 16/37. 3-pointers 2/11 (Hayden, Williams). Free throws 23/35. Record 27-4.
Contact Jon Futrell, a Paducah Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8664.
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