Hampton lets 'Betsy slip through fingers

By Allen LaMountain

   The Elizabethton Cyclones overcame a poor-shooting first half and a 10-point third-period deficit to knock off the Hampton Bulldogs 63-55 on Tuesday night at VanHuss-White Gym.
   The win enabled the Cyclones to remain unbeaten in Watauga Conference play at 13-0 -- with one hurdle left to get past this Friday against Volunteer -- and are now 18-6 overall. Hampton fell to 15-11 overall, 8-6 conference.
   "We had three straight turnovers when we were up by 10 to let them back in it," said Hampton head coach Jerry White. "That sort of broke our back. Our big guy gets in foul trouble in the second half and has to sit awhile."
   B.J. Miller scored 18 points to lead all scorers, while post Vince Redd added 13 of his 16 points in the second half to help lead the Cyclone charge.
   After a trey by Jeff Clark gave Hampton a 39-29 advantage in the third period, 'Betsy then went on a 12-4 spurt to pull to within 43-41 going into the final stanza.
   Miller, Lester Bailey and Walter Brown led the Cyclone charge as EHS connected on 8-of-10 from the floor in the third period, after struggling on 8-of-20 shooting (40 percent) in the first half.
   Hampton was red-hot in the first half, shooting 12-of-24 (50 percent), but the Cyclones turned up the defense in the second half.
   "I challenged the team saying that defense is what got us where we are and we needed to get back to that," said Cyclone head coach Tony Hardin. "Every game we had won all year was due to defense. So we went back to the basics."
   Those basics include a heavy dose of Bailey and Brown harassing the ball handler in the frontcourt and some full-court pressing. Bailey and Brown each had five steals on the night and forced the Bulldogs into nine second-half turnovers.
   The Cyclones harassed the 'Dogs into 3-of-14 shooting in the fourth quarter (21.4 percent) as 'Betsy went on a seven-point run early in the fourth to take a 48-45 advantage before Ryan Deskins hit one-of-two free throws for Hampton.
   Redd then hit a bucket and added a three-point play moments later as 'Betsy took a 53-46 lead, but Hampton wasn't through yet as Zack Ensor canned a trey to cut the 'Betsy lead to four.
   On the Cyclones' next trip down the floor, Deskins got into a tussle with Redd under the bucket and was charged with his fifth personal foul and had to leave the game.
   The closest Hampton got from there was 57-53 when Jeremy Hall completed a three-point play, and after a Cyclone miss Kevin Harrison nailed a three.
   "Being senior night for them we knew they would be hyped," said Brown. "We just had to stay focused and confident in our defense to carry us, and once we got them spread out Vince got some good looks inside."
   Lady Bulldogs 62
   Lady Cyclones 46
   Kari Stout's 31-point explosion carried the Lady Bulldogs to their 11th conference win of the season as Hampton thumped 'Betsy to gain a split of their season series.
   "We had a choice of playing zone and giving (Stout) the perimeter shot or playing man and risk her penetrating to the hoop," said Lady Cyclone head coach Mike Wilson. "We decided not to sit in zone and she hit the outside shots on us. She shoots very well in this gym."
   Hampton stands 16-8 overall, one game behind the Sullivan Central Lady Cougars, who also won on Tuesday night, 51-32 over North.
   EHS (13-6, 8-5) fell from third place in the Watauga Conference to fourth as the Unicoi Lady Blue Devils beat Happy Valley to leapfrog over 'Betsy.
   Beth Holtsclaw led the way for EHS with 18 points while pulling down 10 boards, but battled foul trouble all night. Rikki Baughman added 11 and Lacy Lane and Sarah Smith each tallied seven for the Cyclones.
   Hampton's Alison Pierce scored 13 and Kelly Shoun added nine, while Amanda Finney cleared the boards with 11 rebounds.
   "The girls played hard, and we did all the little things you need to do to win." said Lady Bulldogs head coach Leslie Campbell.