Lady 'Clones work past Johnson Co.

By Allen LaMountain

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- The Elizabethton Lady Cyclones overcame its penchant for slow first-half performances to lead the Lady Longhorns 25-20 at the break enroute to a 50-45 win on Friday night at Ray Shoun gym.
   The already depleted Johnson County squad saw its team further depleted by the wrist injury suffered by standout forward Elena Owens early in the second half. Owens had led the Longhorns with a 10-point first half, but her season may be over if her right wrist turns out to be broken.
   "She took a hard fall, and it's a huge injury when you are as thin as we are," said Lady Longhorns head coach Eric Crabtree. "It doesn't matter if it's your seventh or eighth player or a starter, it's a tough blow. My kids gave a tremendous effort with the cards stacked against us."
   The win improved the Lady Cyclones to (8-5 Watauga Conference, 12-5 overall).
   Johnson County (2-15, 1-9) opened the game with a five-point lead as 'Betsy missed its first seven shots from the floor, but the Lady Cyclones responded with a seven-point run at that point to take a 7-5 lead that they would never relinquish.
   Brandi Forbes scored seven of her nine points in the first half as 'Betsy went into the break with a five-point advantage. Sarah Smith tossed in five first half points and head coach Mike Wilson was pleased with the effort, saying: "We played hard in the first half, and that's what matters. We didn't always play well, but if they play hard then I have no problem with it."
   Owens led the Lady 'Horns, with senior forward Nikki Davidson scoring five of her 11 points in the first half.
   Johnson County out-scored 'Betsy 14-12 in the third period to shave the EHS lead to 37-34 going into the final stanza, with freshman Ryann Tillman leading the way along with point guard Courtney Shaw.
   The fourth period opened with a six-point run by the Lady Cyclones that extended their lead to 43-34 as Valnessha Redd scored a pair of deuces and Rikki Baughman converted on a steal for a bucket at the other end.
   "We finally got two or three easy looks," Wilson said. "Rikki's double-double was solid and Brandi Forbes was big early on. She forced the freshman into some mistakes and got her in foul trouble."
   A pair of free throws by Laura Peters stopped the bleeding for Johnson County and a moment later a steal by Shaw was converted into a basket to cut the Betsy lead to 45-40 at the 4:20 mark of regulation.
   Another basket by Redd made it a seven-point game, but Peters again answered for the Lady 'Horns at the charity stripe. Baughman then made one-of-two free throws before Shaw canned two and Tillman made one-of-two to close the Longhorns to within 48-45 with 27 ticks remaining.
   Baughman and Tanya Dykes each hit one-of-two at the free throw line in the closing seconds of play for the final margin of victory.
   Neither team shot well from the charity stripe with EHS hitting 12-of-21 (57.1 percent) and the Lady Longhorns struggling for 12-of-22 (54.5 percent).
   "We never quit and that is a positive sign," Crabtree said. "But free throw shooting hurt us. If we shot better free throws this was a game that we could have easily won."