Cyclones best Central to halt losing streak

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   After a slow start, the freshman Cyclone basketball team made a 19-point comeback in the second quarter that would carry them to a 44-37 victory over Sullivan Central Wednesday night.
   "We had lost three in a row, so this was a very good win for us," said Elizabethton coach Wes Wright. "We were tickled with the first half. I thought we shot the ball very well -- smart shots. The first half kind of set the stage for us."
   The Cougars took an early lead, using Matt Neal and Josh Bowman early in the game to spur Central into the 10-6 lead in the first quarter. Neal and Bowman each scored two goals during the early minutes of the game.
   Jeremy McMurray contributed another basket to round the score to ten. Elizabethton saw scoring from Austin Taylor, Josh Pirtle, and Travis Bishop in the first.
   The second quarter was Elizabethton's battle back to the top, one that proved to be tricky, given their four-point deficit after the first quarter. The Cyclones caught up early in the quarter, making a 5-2 run on the Cougars to make it 11-12.
   "The second quarter, our transition offense worked awfully well," said Wright. "They go into that zone, and we just had a good time of passing the ball and finding an open guy."
   The teams then passed the lead back and forth almost as much as the ball was passed among the players on the court. Pirtle took the lead for the Cyclones with a layup, only to have it snatched back with a basket from Zach Nussman. John Grindstaff hit one from the side to make it 15-14, but Drew Bryant drove in a layup to put the Cougars back on top.
   Elizabethton's Taylor sank a goal from the top of the key, and Josh Hutchins broke the cycle by scoring a second Cyclone basket. Grindstaff scored another from just inside the arch, and Pirtle soon followed up by stealing a Central rebound on Elizabethton's goal and putting it back through the hoop to make the score 23-18.
   Hutchins wrapped up the quarter by hitting both of his shots from the penalty stripe with eight seconds in the half, ending the second quarter with Elizabethton in the lead, 25-20.
   Bryant opened the second half for Central with a three-pointer, and Neal tied the score at 25 with a jump shot. It would be the last time the scores would touch.
   Grindstaff and Hutchins gave the fans a feeling of deja vu when Hutchins drove the ball down the court and passed to Grindstaff under the goal. Again, Hutchins stole the Cougars' next possession, drove it, and passed to Grindstaff for the score. Grindstaff scored the bulk of his sixteen game points in the middle of the game, with seven in the second, and six in the third.
   The Cyclones made an eight-point scoring run involving Taylor, Brian Jenkins, Robert Davenport, and Grindstaff to end the quarter 10 points ahead, at 37-27.
   Grindstaff foreshadowed the game's outcome by hitting a trey at the top of the fourth, putting the Cyclones further into the lead. Jenkins sank a jumper from the side to make it 42-27.
   The Cougars wouldn't go down easily, however. McCroskey responded with two three-pointers in the final quarter, and Wes Baker nearly added a third with a long shot from just inside the arch to keep the Cyclones on their toes.
   Playing three quarters with 10 points in each, the Cougars played consistently, but in the end, Elizabethton scored the baskets that count. The Cyclones took the win with a score of 44-37.
   Bryant led the Cougar scoring with nine points, followed closely by McCroskey with eight.
   "At 2:28 to go, we knocked in a couple threes and got close. We try to play hard," said Central coach Joe McPherson. "It seemed at times that they had a little bit of trouble handling the ball -- not a whole lot. They had more trouble passing it than they did dribbling it. We got our hand on a lot of passes and created a few turnovers, but we had a hard time scoring against them. I really felt pretty fortunate to be within ten."