TAD wins Middle Seven title

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Correspondent

   KINGSPORT - The T.A. Dugger seventh grade girls team became the Middle Seven Conference Champions on Wednesday night with a 46-34 victory over Vance at Ross N. Robinson gym.
   "I knew it was going to be a close game this time, and I'm proud of how the girls responded by playing hard and doing the things that we needed to do to win the game," said T.A. Dugger coach Doug Fritz.
   The Lady Cyclones displayed a relentless amount of defensive pressure, which propelled them to a first place finish in the tournament.
   T. A. Dugger drew first blood in the contest, when Victoria Hopson received the ball down low for the easy basket.
   Hopson lead all scores on the night, as she dropped in twenty-four points, eight of them coming in the first period along with ten rebounds for the game.
   Vance managed to tie the game at 2-2, when Ashton Kaylor went up for the shot inside, making the bucket and drawing the foul.
   This would be the only tie of the contest, as the Cyclones press was creating turnovers and causing the Vikings to experience difficulty in getting the ball up the floor.
   The Cyclones second field goal came, when Courtney Towle made a nice drive inside the paint for a lay-up.
   T.A. Dugger had built a lead of 10-4 by the end of the first quarter, as Vance was feeling the presence of Hopson underneath.
   The Vikings came out in the second period to close the lead down to a two-point deficit.
   Two back to back baskets by Kari Tester had given Vance new life in trying to keep pace with the quick reacting Cyclone squad.
   "One thing that we focused on all year was rebounding, and we never done it until this game," said Vance coach Becky Olinger.
   T. A. Dugger was unable to score until half way through the period, when Meckael Oliver achieved inside position for the rebound making the put back.
   The Cyclones extended to an eight-point lead with two minutes left until half-time, after a steal and fast break was made from Hopson.
   "We kept on making a few mistakes when we got a lead, but they never panic, and kept on playing like they have all season to get the job done," said Fritz.
   Their last bucket of the period came when Towle kicked a pass out to Marti Bush for an eight-foot jumper, making it 18-13 at the half.
   Vance came out striking first to start the third quarter, after Leah Blevins sank two free-throws to pull the Vikings within three.
   But the cyclones were not about to lay down, as they turned up the intensity pushing the lead to six, when Brianne Gouge hit Kendall Blackston in transition for the score.
   Gouge came up big in the final minutes of the period, by scoring the Cyclones last seven points with a three-point shot going in at the buzzer.
   T.A. Dugger had increased a ten-point margin heading into the final period of play with the score being 32-22 in favor of the Cyclones.
   The last quarter witnessed Hopson taking control of the contest, as she poured in nine of the Cyclones fourteen points.
   The Vikings were unable to hang with up-tempo pace, falling as many as fifteen points behind.
   "We played the better in the tournament than what we thought, but we just couldn't get over the hump, but we played great," said Olinger.
   T.A. Dugger last score came when Kasey Crockett knocked down one of two free-throws from the line, as the Cyclones laid claim to the conference crown.
   The Cyclones finished with an impressive record of 15-0 on the season and 17-1 overall, which is a possible school record for most wins ever by a seventh grade girls team.
   "I'm really proud of the girls for the effort they gave this evening, and to be associated with Elizabethton Girls basketball," said Fritz.
   "I really appreciate people like Harry Farthing, Mike Wilson, and David Hilton who have made this a possibility."