Cyclones roll past Bulldogs

By Allen LaMountain

   On senior night and homecoming, the Elizabethton Cyclones gave the overflow crowd a gift-wrapped Watauga Conference title by whipping the Hampton Bulldogs 72-51 on Friday night at Treadway Gym.
   The win saw 'Betsy remain unbeaten in WC play at 12-0 (20-3 overall) while the young Bulldogs fell to 1-11 (4-22 overall).
   Senior guard B.J. Miller pumped in 24 points for EHS on 10-for-16 shooting from the floor (62.5 percent) which included hitting four-of-seven from distance.
   "Athletes talk about being in the zone," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "And he surely was in one. I thought the seniors all had good nights and we wanted them to have their moment in the sun. It was a special night for a special group of seniors, and for them to clinch the conference on this night was great."
   Jacob Culler showed that Hampton could be a force to recon with next season as he capped a big night with a 14-point effort that saw him connect on six of nine from the floor (66.7 percent).
   "Jacob is inconsistent, like most young players," said Hampton head coach Bud Hazelwood. "But he is streaky. He could hit 10 in a row or miss them all night, and Travis Smith is the same way. It's hard to play against someone that you are scared of."
   The Bulldogs may not have been scared, but they were certainly unsteady as the starters produced only 10 first half-points as the Cyclones cruised to a 35-10 lead at the break.
   EHS, in fact, ran off 14 straight points in the first quarter to open a 15-1 lead enroute to a 19-3 first-period advantage as Hampton had trouble bringing the ball into the EHS end of the court.
   The 'Dogs shot a miserable 4-for-20 (20 percent) in the first half as 'Betsy was firing away at a 16-for-27 (59.3 percent) clip.
   "EHS is obviously better than we are and certainly more experienced," said Hazelwood. "Senior night was extra motivation for them. In the second half we had four underclassmen on the floor that went into this season with no experience. They have 20 games under their belts now so they are gaining experience."
   The 'Dogs played much better in the second half, but a lot of that could have been due to the fact that 'Betsy only had two starters on the floor at any given time as coach Hardin played everyone on his bench.
   Clinching the conference title on senior night ay have been extra motivation for the Cyclones but senior post Vince Redd says the team is maintaining its focus.
   "All I can say is it was a conference home game," Redd said. That's all that needs to be said about the game. I'm just trying to play team ball, then do what I have to do. As long as we keep playing team defense we'll be doing all right."
   Redd finished with nine points, while forward Jordan Lambert added eight to the Cyclone points total. Greg Osborne scored 13 for Hampton while Travis Smith tallied 12.
   Lady Cyclones 59
   Lady Bulldogs 43
   Sophomore forward Rikki Baughman had the breakout game that has been expected of her this season as she tossed in a game-high 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Lady Cyclones won handily.
   Hampton guard Joy Gardner was held scoreless until the final two minutes of the game as she shot just 1-of-7 from the floor (14.3 percent) in scoring just two points on the night.
   "Hampton tends to go as she goes," said EHS head coach Mike Wilson. "But the key to this game I thought was when we went into our trap defense and were able to get an eight to 10 point run off of it."
   'Betsy out-scored Hampton 11-2 in the second period to open a 25-15 advantage at the intermission as Baughman had nine first-half points. Hampton made a short run at the Lady Cyclones in the third period to close to within 31-23, but that's when Betsy pulled the trap defense out of it's arsenal and proceed to extend it's lead to 42-25 by the end of the period.
   "I have to give Jordan Crowe a lot of credit," said Wilson. "I thought that she did a great job defensively on Gardner. She took Gardner out of her game and didn't give her any good looks at the basket."
   Sophomore guard Kristi Clark banged home a trey to open the fourth quarter, but 'Betsy -- led by sophomore post Valnessha Redd -- ran off 10-straight points to open an insurmountable 52-28 lead.
   In the 'Betsy run Sarah Smith and Baughman each hit two from the charity stripe before Redd had a pair of steals that led to easy baskets at the other end and Baughman finished off the run by following a missed shot by Smith with an offensive rebound and putback.
   "The last two games have been the best we have played all season effort-wise," Wilson said. "Rikki hitting a couple of three's opened things up inside and enabled us to stretch Hampton's defense. Team defense and rebounding were to big keys and were the difference in the game.
   "This was a big win and with one more win we can do no worse than second place in the conference. I'm not sure we can catch Unicoi County at this stage, but we still have a game left against them."
   'Betsy now stands 10-3 in Watauga Conference play and are 14-5 overall, while the Lady Bulldogs fell to 3-9 WC, 5-14 overall.
   Redd added 11 points to the Lady Cyclone total while Brandi Forbes scored eight. For Hampton Jessica Tolley's 13 points led the way with freshman Lauren Pitman adding nine to the Hampton cause.