EHS rally falls just short vs. Cougars

By Wes Holtsclaw
The Elizabethton Cyclones needed one bucket to beat Sullivan Central. It wouldn't go in.
In Saturday night's meeting between two of the top teams in the Watauga Conference, the Cyclones fought back from a 15-point deficit in the second half, with Chris Vaughn missing a three at the buzzer to save a 52-50 victory for the Cougars.
"I thought we played with an awful lot of heart and that's what we've got to do to be good," said Elizabethton coach Tony Hardin. "I really thought we gave a lot of effort and we played really, really hard."
"I think they're the best team in the conference and that shows us where we are and where we need to be, what we need to get better at."
Elizabethton opened the game with a slim lead courtesy of buckets from Adam Turley and Derrick Nave, but Central pulled ahead behind Jeff Beverly and two tresys from Daniel Skelton to take a 19-9 edge after the first quarter.
The Cyclones outscored the Cougars from that point on, but played catch up.
Central took a 16-0 run behind three straight deuces from Josh O'Dell into the second quarter to take a 15-point lead. Turley led Betsy back with three treys to cut the Cougar lead to eight at the end of the first half.
Charles Peters stepped things up in the third quarter for the Cyclones with nine points despite an inside presence from Central's Matt Dunford, cutting the Cougar lead to four, but it was back to six going into the final stanza.
Peters cut the Central lead to two from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, but Dunford tallied two field goals to make the Cyclones start fouling.
J.C. Atkinson almost saved the day for Elizabethton with a big trifecta to cut it to a pair with five seconds remaining, and an offensive foul on Central's Beverly gave the Cyclones a chance to win.
Vaughn went to the top of the key and took an open shot, but it was deflected off the rim to save the Central win.
Skelton and Dunford led Central with 14 points apiece, while Peters led Elizabethton and the game with sixteen. Turley contributed 15 for the Cyclones.
According to Peters, the team was in a comeback mode after the first quarter.
"The coaches were kind of mad at us, because at the Dobyns-Bennett game we kind of gave up and the main thing was not to give up because we were behind," the sophomore said. "We were just trying to rally back and let all of these other guys know that we wouldn't quit."
"I felt like this was a big loss," said Nave, who tallied seven points. "If you take away all of the turnovers, I think we could've won. We need to all come to the gym and work harder, maybe we can pull it out the next time."
Hardin was proud of his young team, who is still trying to bounce back from losing 55 points of per-game offense last season.
"Honestly, I'm pleased where we are," the coach said. "Our efforts are good, the kids are trying to get better and that's where we want to be come district time."
"I hate to lose, but we're not miles and miles away from being a good team," he said. "We lost 55 points from last year and I think that's pretty admirable for where we are right now."
However, there are certain points that the team will need to work on.
"Our shot selection sometimes is not what we need and I felt like we had a couple of lulls," he said. "Young teams tend to play well for awhile, then you have two minutes or so that you don't play well. So we've got to make sure we don't have those."
Lady Cyclones 58
Lady Cougars 36
The Elizabethton Lady Cyclones had a tough game early, but a 21-4 third quarter silenced the Lady Cougars of Central.
That combined with solid play from the entire team paved the way for a large conference win at Treadway Gym.
"We had a three great days of practice and I thought we were ready to play," said Elizabethton coach Mike Wilson. "I told our kids if we didn't get outhustled, if we just went out and played hard that I felt sure we would win. I think we did, I was real pleased with them and I was real proud of them."
The Lady Cyclones played tough defense throughout the game, but really stepped things up in the second and third quarters, only allowing a combined ten points.
"We did most of the game," the coach added. "I think we let up a little bit in the fourth quarter, but I think we played great defensively. You've got to give the defense credit for creating a lot of turnovers and setting up a lot of easy buckets."
Four buckets from Rikki Baughman and three from Michaela Pietrowski paced Elizabethton's first quarter efforts.
Central tried to get unwrapped with a trey from Beth Skelton and three buckets from Julie LeSueur, but it didn't assist them much.
Tanya Dykes and Whitney Bishop made some big buckets in the second quarter to give the Lady Cyclones a 30-17 lead after the first half and it only got worse for Central.
Valnessha Redd opened the third quarter with all of her seven points, while Baughman, Valerie Kauffeld and Brandi Forbes all pitched in with points to give their unit a 51-21 lead going into the final frame.
Kayla Vaughn and Sarah Munal helped Central get back on track offensively, as they made things look beter on the scoreboard, but Victoria Hopson and Marti Bush didn't let them gain too much on Elizabethton near the end of the game.
Baughman led the game with 16 points, while Pietrowski added eight for Elizabethton. LeSueur and Vaughn led Central with eight apiece while Skelton tallied seven.