Hampton finally gets past Cyclones

By Allen LaMountain

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

   KINGSPORT -- The top dog of District 1-AA was crowned on Friday night at Sullivan North Gymnasium, and it was the Hampton Bulldogs that grabbed the honors with a frenetic display of board crashing, defense and clutch shots.
   The third time was indeed the charm as Hampton finally got past the Elizabethton Cyclones -- handing 'Betsy its first loss to a Watauga Conference foe all season -- in besting EHS 70-67.
   Forward Ryan Deskins claimed Most Valuable Player honors for Hampton, but wasn't about to take away from the team effort his 'Dogs put forth in helping him earn the honor.
   "It was a team effort all the way. The seniors on this team are the one's that really helped me," he said. "I owe it all to them, my teammates."
   Cyclone forward Jordan Lambert put on the red cape in this contest scoring a game-high 27 points as he single-handedly kept EHS in this game as he was frequently the only starter on the floor for Elizabethton.
   Lambert pulled down nine boards, connected on nine-of-11 from the floor and was five -of-five from the charity stripe, but the strain of carrying the club got to him as he fouled out late in the contest.
   Lambert led all scorers in the tournament with 56 points (18.7 ppg) and didn't miss a free throw, hitting a perfect 13-of-13.
   "Lambert put forth a Herculean effort," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "We had everybody either hurting or in foul trouble and Jordan stepped up for us. He did everything he could to get us a win. It was an MVP-type effort.
   "Hampton's a senior-oriented basketball team, and they played like it. They did more things right than we did. Foul trouble just killed us."
   Lambert and Hampton guard Zack Ensor traded three-pointers several times in the early going as it was obvious that the 'Dogs had come to play.
   "All the pressure was on them coming in, being unbeaten and all," said Hampton post Jeremy Hall, who's three pointer at the top of the key with under a minute to play put one nail into Betsy's coffin. "We knew if we came out and played our game, and did what we can do, we knew we could play with them. It was a team effort, a great team effort."
   Hampton led 36-30 at the break as Ensor pumped in eight of his 17 points in the first half. Ensor was aided by seven points from Deskins who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in his MVP effort.
   Betsy on the other hand was struggling to get off a play without a foul being called on them. In the first half Betsy was whistled 15 times for fouls compared to just five for the 'Dogs.
   Lambert tallied 15 first half points for EHS.
   Four of Elizabethton's five starters had three fouls on them by the break, including post Vince Redd, who logged just 18 minutes of court time and scored 12 points.
   A deuce by Kevin Harrison gave Hampton a 45-35 lead in the third period, and the 'Dogs led 55-48 going into the final stanza.
   A Redd dunk opened the fourth quarter and brought the Betsy fans to their feet and B.J. Miller added a bucket shortly afterward to cut the deficit to 55-52.
   Deskins answered for the 'Dogs, but another Miller basket made it a 57-56 game with Hampton clinging to it's small advantage. Ensor dropped in a deuce, but Eric Stout scored on a putback as the Cyclones continued to apply the pressure.
   "We almost let it slip away from us," commented Hampton head coach Jerry White. "But we stayed determined, kept ourselves in the running and good things like this will happen."
   The Cyclones tied the score when Redd canned one-of-two free throws, but Harrison gave the advantage back to Hampton with his free throw.
   Deskins and Lambert traded deuces, and Stout added a bucket after a Hampton turnover, and for the first time since the early going, the Cyclones had themselves a lead, albeit a slim one.
   Then, with Hampton trailing by a point, and in the midst of chaos, Hall took a pass from Ensor at the top of the key beyond the three-point arc and put up a shot.
   "At the time he shot it I was thinking, no, no, no...yes," said White. "But really, our post guys are good outside shooters, we just don't do it much because we have nobody to rebound if they do."
   Hall's trey rippled the nets and gave Hampton a 68-66 lead that they would never relinquish.
   Redd soon after, stood at the charity stripe with :14.9 ticks left and missed one-of-two that left Betsy trailing with time running out.