Lady Cyclones prevail over pesky Volunteer

By Ivan Sanders

   One could almost imagine sitting and watching Clint Eastwood's "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" as they took in the District 1-AA girls semifinal game between Elizabethton and Volunteer on Tuesday night as the game had some great play, a touch of bad play, and an instance or two of pure old ugly play.
   In the end though, the Lady Cyclones sent the home fans back to their abodes feeling satisfaction as Elizabethton built an early big lead, let it slip away, and then raced back in the final quarter to take a 59-46 victory and a berth in the district championship game opposite their nemesis, the Unicoi Lady Blue Devils, in Treadway Gym on Thursday night.
   "We played well early and then I tried to get the girls some rest before we got into foul trouble," stated Coach Mike Wilson of Elizabethton. "Overall, I think we did a pretty decent job defensively and I feel like we shot our foul shots relatively well."
   The Lady Cyclones appeared to be getting geared up to run away with the game early on as they built a 16-5 advantage at the first stop. Great play from Tanya Dykes, Rikki Baughman and Sarah Smith penetrating the paint for easy layups seemed to frustrate the Lady Falcons in the quarter.
   EHS came out again trying to be the aggressor in the second quarter as they eked their lead to 20-8 with 4:51 showing on the clock. Volunteer then seemed to shake the jitters and actually outscored the Lady Cyclones 10-5 over the closing moments to pull within seven, 25-18, at the intermission.
   "The one thing I remember about that second quarter was that we absolutely sent Volunteer to the line too many times as we fouled them everytime they touched the ball," stated Wilson. "I don't know if we got slap-happy or what, but we allowed them to go to the line entirely too much."
   Another problem facing Wilson was the fact that he found his team in early foul trouble as Jordan Crowe, Valnessha Redd and Lacy Lane were all staring down the barrel of a loaded gun with three fouls each with two whole quarters left to play.
   Elizabethton came out to find the Falcons wanting to play a little smashmouth basketball as Volunteer quickly sliced the edge down to four points before Baughman began to use her agility on the inside to help the Lady Cyclones erase the deficit and build their advantage back to 10 with 2:43 remaining in the period. From that point, the Lady Cyclones went on an 8-1 run to push the lead to 17 entering the fourth quarter.
   The Lady Falcons continued to peck away at the lead, but it was a little too late as the Lady Cyclones hit their foul shots down the stretch to claim the win. Defense was the name of the game as Brandi Forbes joined with Baughman to collect 35 boards and 8 rejects between the two.
   Said Sarah Smith: "I think we came out and as a team played hard. It did get a little scary with the foul trouble, but we was able to get the win. We are going to have to box out really well and play tough defense again if we are to beat Unicoi County."
   Baughman paced EHS with 22 points, 21 boards and six blocked shots. Forbes added 10 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks while Smith chipped in with 9 points and 8 steals.
   For Volunteer, Leah Johnson showed the way by netting 19 points and seven boards. Morgan Smith contributed with 15 points and teammate Rebecca Manis added 14 points to go along with 12 rebounds to pace the Lady Falcons, who will face Sullivan Central for third place before the Lady Cyclones and Lady Devils tangle on Thursday.
   "The key for us to beat Unicoi County will be if we can keep a lot of defensive pressure on the ball and just keep the pressure on," quipped Wilson. "Our kids are the least bit intimidated and they will be ready to take on the challenge and just play tough basketball against them."
   Sullivan Central 30
   Unicoi County 51
   Unicoi County proved why they have been the team to beat all season as they steamrolled out to a 13-0 lead after one quarter and put it into cruise for the remaining three periods allowing the Lady Cougars to get within 12 on a couple of occasions before quickly igniting the fire to push the lead around 15 points for most of the remaining time.
   Central can find solace in knowing they still have qualified for regional play, but they knew they were going to have their hands full with the Lady Devils.
   "Unicoi County just plays awesome defense and it is tough to do anything with them," said Lady Cougar mentor Gary Surcey. "They just put so much pressure on you and force you into too many mistakes."
   Melissa Headley and Amber Bailey sparked the Lady Devils offensively with 13 and 11 points, respectively, with Headley pulling down seven rebounds as well.
   Kristie Moody hit 10 of 19 field goals and 10 of 16 from the charity stripe to keep the Lady Cougars close by blistering the cotton for 36 points in a losing effort.
   "We had way too many turnovers tonight," stated Lady Devil coach Glenn Fisher, who knows a little something about winning ballgames with over 500 wins. "We got a little too relaxed I guess and just made bad decisions, but we did come out with a win."
   Unicoi must now prepare for a determined Lady Cyclone squad, which has a little something to prove after dropping a one-point loss at Unicoi at the end of regular season. Defense will be the name of the game and the team that can be more effective with their defense will be the team to take the District 1 championship Thursday night at A.L. Treadway Gym.