Cyclones complete path to conference crown

By Allen LaMountain

   The Elizabethton Cyclones overcame poor free throw shooting and weathered several runs by the surprising Johnson County Longhorns to take a hard-fought 60-52 win on Tuesday night at Treadway Gym.
   The win clinched the Watauga Conference title for Elizabethton -- in its first season in the conference -- and allowed 'Betsy to remain unbeaten at 11-0 in conference play.
   The Cyclones connected on just 25-of-45 from the charity stripe (55.6 percent), and were just 1-of-13 from distance in the contest, but had enough left in the tank at the end of a very physical ballgame to pull out the victory. For their part the Longhorns shot 11-of-19 from the free throw line and shot a respectable 19-of-45 from the floor (42.2 percent), but foul trouble played a key role down the stretch.
   Junior post Vince Redd scored 20 points for Elizabethton, but faced double and even triple teams all evening. Redd said he knew what to expect coming into the game saying, "They did what they had to do and that was deny the post. Don't let me get any inside touches. They took us out of our game a little bit."
   Johnson County put forth a tremendous effort on the defensive end of the floor, and it took a little bit out of them at the end, as Betsy climbed back from a 10-point second period deficit to pull to within 28-24 at the break. 'Betsy scored a six-point run to end the first half as B.J. Miller and Redd each scored three.
   "Our defense really played hard," said Longhorns head coach Austin Atwood. "It took a little out of us, our guys were tired. Lester Bailey was something for them, he beat us on dribble penetration a couple times."
   The Cyclones opened the third period with a five-point run to take a 29-28 lead, but behind the scoring of forward Matt Cornett - who pumped in a game-high 26 points - and Judd Shoun, the 'Horns led 41-35 after three quarters of play.
   "Johnson County came to play tonight," commented Bailey. "They were focused and determined and they made us have to 'd' up on the shooter quickly. We changed to a man defense more in the second half, but their defense was tough."
   Miller hit a three to open the fourth quarter, which Redd followed up with a free throw and Bailey canned deuce on a driving shot to make it a 41-41 contest. Cornett gave Johnson County a brief lead with a deuce, but Eric Stout hit a bucket off an offensive rebound and Redd hit one-of-two to give Betsy the lead at 44-43.
   A Miller jump shot gave EHS a 46-43 lead and the Cyclones never trailed from there, out-scoring the 'Horns 14-9 down the stretch.
   "I think that free throw shooting is directly proportionate to focus," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "We weren't as focused on fundamentals as we need to be. I give the Longhorns a lot of credit, they came to play tonight."
Johnson County..................48

   Beth Holtsclaw scored a game-high 21 points and along with freshman Rikki Baughman took down nine rebounds as the Lady Cyclones won their eighth conference game of the season and swept the Lady Longhorns.
   'Betsy now stands 13-4 (8-3 conference), while Johnson County fell to 6-13 (1-10 conference). Holtsclaw had 12 first-half points as 'Betsy struggled to a 20-17 lead at intermission.
   In the second half however the Lady Cyclones - led by Sarah Smith and Brandy Fairman - gave the team an offensive and defensive spark.
   "Sarah Smith had a great game. She played great defense," said EHS head coach Mike Wilson. "And let me tell you something, Brandy Fairman had a great game as well. She picked them apart and got us some real easy looks inside with her passing."
   The Lady Cyclones clung to a slim 37-32 lead going into the fourth quarter as Johnson County's Nikki Davidson and Andrea McQueen heated up to combine for five-of-13 shooting from three-point land. Courtney Shaw led the way for the Lady 'Horns with 14 points while Davidson tallied 11 and McQueen added 10.
   For 'Betsy, Smith, Lacy Lane and Baughman each scored nine and Tanya Dykes added seven.
   Smith's three-point play gave EHS a 42-35 lead and moments later Smith scored back-to-back deuces to stake the Lady Cyclones to a 46-35 lead, before a Davidson three stopped the bleeding for Johnson County.
   "We came out ready to play tonight," said Holtsclaw. "Their shooting was much better than it was the last time we faced them, so they made us work real hard on the defensive end. This was much harder than expected."
   Lady Longhorns head coach Eric Crabtree saw some positive things to take away from this contest saying, "We shot the ball well, especially Nikki and Courtney. I thought we played tough defense, but got tired near the end. We need to rebound the ball better, that part of our game wasn't very good."