Elizabethton controls Central

By Wes Holtsclaw

   BLOUNTVILLE -- When Matt Dunford was on, the Elizabethton Cyclones couldn't put Sullivan Central away.
   The 1,000-point senior Cougar had 15 points through the first three quarters against the Cyclones and helped lead Central to a two-point lead over Elizabethton into the final frame.
   But Dunford didn't get to play in the fourth quarter and Elizabethton got the break they wanted.
   Solid defense and shooting from Derrick Nave and Lester Bailey helped the E-Unit pull away with a 61-50 victory at the Cougar Cage.
   "The whole team just hit tonight," said Elizabethton coach Tony Hardin. "The sophomore's played critical minutes and made big shots. It was the medicine for what ails you at this point."
   Elizabethton played the game without starter Charles Peters and a share of Cyclone players stepped things up, especially Nave, who had a game-high 18 points.
   "Derrick Nave is a hard working kid who stays in the gym. His work paid off tonight," Hardin said. "His teammates did a good job as well."
   "We didn't play very well tonight," Sullivan Central coach Tony Vaughn. "The past two games we have got on the boards and tonight we were our own worst enemy. Elizabethton outhustled us and played hard."
   The first quarter was a low scoring affair for Central and Elizabethton as the Cyclones led 3-2 with under two minutes remaining in the period.
   Joe Brown and Adam Turley swapped bucekts for their teams, with Elizabethton holding a slim 8-6 lead.
   Dunford rallied Central to their first lead of the game after fighting off a five-point deficit from the Cyclones. Daniel Skelton hit a pair of clutch buckets, but Bailey and Nave corralled a three-point edge at the end of the first half.
   Central bounced out to a lead after two buckets from Joe Brown and Josh O'Dell, with a trio of inside hoops from Dunford, who went over the 1,000-point mark for his career, giving the home squad a two-point lead into the fourth quarter.
   Elizabethton put it on the Cougars in the fourth quarter.
   Brandon Blevins and Chris Vaughn helped step up the defense with Turley while Bailey and Nave helped the Cyclones go up by nine late.
   Dunford led Central with his 15, while Joe Brown added 11 and Daniel Skelton tallied 10.
   Bailey and Blevins added 14 and 12 respectively for the Cyclones, who improved to 10-8 on the season. They have a 5-3 record in Watauga Conference play. They are now a half game behind Central and Volunteer, who also lost on the night in the league standings. Central's overall record is now at 12-7.
   The Cyclones return to action next Tuesday night in a key league matchup at Treadway Gym against Happy Valley.
   Lady Cyclones 55
   Lady Cougars 49
   The Lady Cyclones led by as much as 16 against the Lady Cougars before a second-half comeback almost gave Central a chance to win.
   Central cut the Elizabethton lead to four twice in the fourth quarter, once courtesy of a 12-2 run. Solid free throw shooting helped the Lady Cyclones come away with the win.
   On the night, Elizabethton sank 15-of-24 shots from the charity stripe compared to just 9-of-23 for Central.
   "I've got to give them some credit because they played real well against us," said Elizabethton coach Mike Wilson. "I think it was a good win. It may be good for us in the long run. It was a wake-up call so we don't think we're better than we are."
   The Lady Cyclones were ahead 20-7 at the end of one period and 31-17 at halftime. Going into the final quarter, they still held a nine-point lead at 42-33.
   Rikki Baughman led Elizabethton with 21 points, including a big seven point fourth quarter. Tanya Dykes added eight. Four players - Baughman, Valerie Kauffield, Valneesha Redd and Cameron Crapps - all made shots behind the three-point line.
   Julie LeSueur led Sullivan Central with 12 points, while Beth Skelton and Kayla Vaughn contributed ten to the Cougars' cause.
   The Lady Cyclones remained perfect in league play, now sporting a Watauga Conference record of 8-0. They improved 13-4 overall on the season. Central is at the .500 mark overall with an 8-8 record, but are 6-3 in conference play.
   Elizabethton easily won the junior varsity girls' contest, doubling the score of Central at 58-29.