Cyclones confident heading into tourney

The second season in prep basketball will begin Monday for the Elizabethton Cyclones, who will be the top seed in the Region 1-2A District tournament which will be played at Sullivan North High School.
   Betsy will square off against Unicoi County in a 4 p.m. contest. Betsy had good success against the Blue Devils scoring 73-49 and 66-42 wins over Unicoi.
   The win at Unicoi proved what the Cyclones had been saying all season, and that is, that defense is the key for this group as Betsy forced the Blue Devils into 18 turnovers as the Cyclones raced to a 45-19 halftime lead.
   In that game EHS recorded 15 steals and dominated the Devils on their own floor.
   "That's our main goal, our main focus," said guard Walter Brown. "Defense is what gets us fired up."
   Guard Lester Bailey concurred with Brown saying, "The defense makes our offense go. That's what we do, and in the tournament you have to do what you do best and that is defense for us."
   The Cyclones won the Watauga Conference in their first year of play at the 2A level, and did so in impressive fashion by sweeping all 14 conference games.
   By doing so the Cyclones became the first team since the 1943-44 Betsy squad to finish a conference schedule unbeaten.
   "It's a new season and we are very tickled to have finished the way we did in the conference," said EHS head coach Tony Hardin. "At tournament time you have to prove yourself all over again, but the attitude of the team is good."
   At the start of the season the one flaw that everyone pointed to on the Cyclones would have been a lack of depth. Losing Weston Peters to a shoulder injury right before the start of the season was a blow.
   The loss of post Brad Holtsclaw to a knee injury hurt Betsy as well, but coach Hardin thinks that right now the Cyclones are as deep as they have been all season.
   "Our depth right now is much better than at the start of the season," said Hardin. "Guys like Michael Porter and Adam Turley have stepped up considerably It's huge that we have a squad that can go eight deep. It gives us a great chance to compete."
   Porter and Turley have both been getting prime minutes of late and have rewarded coach Hardin's confidence in them with outstanding play when called upon.
   While neither is a scoring machine, on this squad if you want to play you have to bring it on the defensive end of the floor and that's where both Turley and Porter have shined.
   Eric Stout has been a solid contributor all season on the boards and Jordan Lambert provides instant offense along the baseline to jump start things if the offense is sluggish.
   Lambert keyed a seven point third quarter run in Tuesday's loss in Bristol and when he's on he can hit from anywhere on the floor.
   With Player-of-the-Year candidate Vince Redd in the post averaging a shade under 16 points a game and the guard tandem of Brown and B.J. Miller wreaking havoc defensively the Cyclones have every reason to feel confident.
   "It's a new season and everyone has a chance to go as far as they want," said Redd. "I want to thank the fans for their support of the team. They really get us fired up. THe best fans represent EHS."
   The Cyclones will not be content to rest on their unbeaten conference laurels however as they know that everyone will be gunning for them and will bring a higher level of intensity to each contest.
   "We feel that we still have something to prove," said Brown. "We want to come out strong in the tournament, because this is what we have been playing for all year."