Lady Cyclones deny Rutledge

By Allen LaMountain
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
alamountain@starhq.com

   MORRISTOWN -- The Elizabethton Lady Cyclones performed a feat of magic on Tuesday night at Isenberg-Siler gymnasium in the Region 1-AA tournament. They made Rutledge star post Beth Hopper disappear.
   In the process the Lady Cyclones earned themselves what will be a stern test tonight as they advance to take on South Greene with a 49-39 victory over the Lady Pioneers.
   "We denied her the ball inside by having Beth work behind her and Brandy Fairman was backing in, in front of her," said Lady Cyclones head coach Mike Wilson. "She couldn't get the ball where she wanted and got a little frustrated and started to just shoot outside."
   Freshman Rikki Baughman was magical herself, scoring a game-high 21 points and shooting five-of-eight from downtown, while Beth Holtsclaw added 17 more as the inside-outside tandem worked all night for 'Betsy.
   "Rikki and Beth both had big nights," said Wilson. "I thought in the first half we were a bit sloppy, and (Hopper) was getting whatever she wanted. We had to do a better job defensively."
   The Lady Cyclones heeded that advice, holding the Pioneers to a mere two points in the third period as 'Betsy erased a 20-18 halftime deficit by scoring the first 10 points of the stanza.
   Two free throws by Hopper was all Rutledge could muster in the quarter as Baughman heated up scoring 11 of the Lady Cyclones' 13 points in the period.
   "Beth was setting some good picks for me," said Baughman. "That's what gave me the open looks. I probably shot more than I usually do, but when I got open I shot. I think we were really pumped up as a team."
   It showed in the Cyclone defensive effort and in the patience they showed as they began to get into an offensive rhythm in the third period.
   In the fourth quarter 'Betsy began to work the inside as Holtsclaw began to warm up offensively, scoring eight points down the stretch.
   Elizabethton went into the final stanza with a 31-22 lead and immediately Holtsclaw scored a deuce. Valneesha Redd scored on a steal and layup before Rutledge's Elizabeth Wolfenbarger tallied for the Pioneers.
   It seemed every time Rutledge scored Holtsclaw would answer for the Cyclones. After Wolfenbager's basket, Holtsclaw scored. After a free throw by Wolfenbarger, Holtsclaw scored once again as EHS maintained its lead.
   "When Rikki got hot shooting the threes it forced them to cheat their defense toward her more," said Holtsclaw. "When they did that we started running more plays inside. We were kind of feeding off each other."
   Tanya Dykes dropped in a baseline deuce and Holtsclaw followed that with another bucket inside as EHS built a 41-25 lead with under five minutes remaining.
   After another Holtsclaw deuce the Cyclones led 43-26 before a Rutledge mini-run closed the gap to 43-31 at the 2:50 mark.
   Rutledge was able to get as close as 10 points at the tail-end of the ballgame. Hopper finished with 17 points to lead Rutledge while teammate Deanna Harville added 10. Rutledge finishes the season with a 17-15 mark.