EHS explodes in fourth quarter

By Allen LaMountain

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Frustrated by their inability to put the Johnson County Longhorns away for three periods, the Elizabethton Cyclones turned the defensive pressure up a notch and went on a decisive 18-4 fourth quarter siege to eclipse the 'Horns 79-58 at Ray Shoun Gym on Friday night.
   The Cyclones now stand 9-4 overall and 4-0 in Watauga Conference play while the Longhorns fell to 4-11, 1-3.
   "We started doing what we're supposed to do on defense," said Cyclone junior post Vince Redd. "Most of our scoring comes off the defensive end from turnovers."
   The Cyclones forced 23 turnovers from the 'Horns -- many of those forced by guard Lester Bailey, who was a thorn in Johnson County's side all night -- and scored off many of those at the other end of the floor.
   "Lester's spark is probably the biggest reason we won the game," commented Cyclone head coach Tony Hardin. "He kind of got us going, stepped up our level of play, and just played very well. We got back to basics in the fourth quarter, and played more solid. Any time you can go on the road and get a conference win it's a good win."
   The Longhorns started strongly, taking a 16-11 lead after one period as there were lots of whistles in this one, and the 'Horns took advantage at the charity stripe. For the game the 'Horns finished 22-of-27 (81.4 percent) from the stripe, while the Cyclones struggled.
   EHS hit just 11-of-27 from the free throw line (40.7 percent), but made up for that failing with tight defense and solid rebounding.
   Betsy outscored the 'Horns 25-18 in the second period to take a 36-34 advantage going into the break as Bailey led the way with 11 of his 17 points coming in the first half.
   "We didn't come out with our usual focus in the first half," said Bailey. "We have to come out harder early on in games, like we did against Science Hill. We came out very focused in the second half."
   With sharp-shooters Matt Cornett and Tommy Short leading the way, Johnson County found themselves within four points at 52-48 going into the final stanza, but that's when the wheels fell off for the 'Horns.
   Redd hit a pair of free throws, a bucket and Eric Stout canned a deuce as Betsy extended to a 58-48 advantage, but the carnage wasn't over by a sight.
   Cornett canned two free throws and Short hit a jumper in the lane, but Bailey scored off a pair of mid-court steals that led to easy lay-ups and B.J. Miller hit a deuce as did Walter Brown as EHS now led 66-52 at the 5:00 mark of regulation.
   From there it was desperation time for the Longhorns as Johnson County began firing up three's at will to little effect as the 'Horns connected on just four-of-16 (25 percent) from distance for the contest.
   It was even worse in the fourth quarter as the 'Horns hit just two-of-11 (18.1 percent) in the final period.
   Cornett finished with a game-high 29 points, while Short poured in 20 to back Cornett's efforts, but no one else scored any points of significance for the Longhorns. Redd tallied 20 points for Betsy, with Bailey adding 17 and Jordan Lambert tossing in 15.
   "Our depth is what hurts us," said Longhorns head coach Austin Atwood. "We aren't deep. We wanted to force the tempo, and we forced some turnovers, but we had more than what we got from them. They out-rebounded us, and most teams will, but if we rebound better and take care of the ball better in the fourth quarter then it's a much closer game."
   Johnson County....................24
   This game was over at the half, with Betsy leading 26-10, as the Lady Cyclones won their 10th contest of the season to improve to 10-2 overall, and 3-1 in the Watauga Conference.
   The Lady Longhorns (2-7, 0-4) had no answer for EHS' Beth Holtsclaw, who scored 17 points in the paint and freshman Rikki Baughman who tallied eight points, but took down eight boards and had four steals.
   Every member of the varsity squad got floor time and all but two players scored for the Lady Cyclones, who showed little or no effect of the long Holiday layoff.
   Sarah Smith scored seven points and Valneesha Redd added six fourth quarter points off the bench.
   The Lady Cyclones shot 21-of-47 from the floor (44.6 percent), while stifling the Johnson County squad to the tune of nine-of-44 from the floor (20.4 percent).
   "If our girls hit for their averages, we would have been all right," said Lady Longhorns head coach Eric Crabtree. "McQueen usually gets around 16 points a game, but what did she get tonight, two? Plus we gave up 12 straight points off turnovers and you can't play like that and win."
   Jessica Townsend scored a game-high eight points for the Lady 'Horns, but usually reliable scorer Nikki Davidson had just one point for the game.
   "I was pleased. We hadn't played in near three weeks, and that we played as well as we did, says a lot about these kids," said Mike Wilson, Lady Cyclone head coach. "I told my girls the key was to guard McQueen and rebound well, and we would have a good chance to win. Last year we didn't expect to win, but now we feel like we have a chance to win every time we step on the floor and we will win our share."