Lady 'Clones drop title tilt

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   Forget telling the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones that the third time is the charm. They proved that to be a useless proverb as the Lady Devils of Unicoi County came onto Elizabethton's own hardwood with one thing in mind and that was to take their first District 1 title since 1996.
   Coach Glenn Fisher's team wasted little time in making life hard on the Lady Cyclones as they opened the game by taking a 15-4 advantage after one quarter and never broke stride as they toppled EHS by the score of 42-32 to take the title in A.L. Treadway Gym on Thursday night.
   "Our team showed great energy tonight with some outstanding rebounding early in the contest that led to some easy buckets and it was huge getting that big lead," said Fisher of his Lady Devils performance. "It was important for us to win this championship and I believe it is going to give us some great momentum heading into the regional next week."
   While Unicoi County was busy working tenaciously on the boards, the Lady Cyclones were just struggling to get the ball to go into the hoop. Normally a high scoring team, EHS found themselves deep in a hole in the first half as they could only pick up a total of 10 points for 16 minutes of roundball.
   The Cyclones settled for one shot each trip as the Lady Blue Devils did a great job of keeping Elizabethton's tandem of Rikki Baughman, Brandi Forbes, and Lacy Lane off the glass for almost the entire first half.
   Unicoi County took advantage of the Lady Cyclones misfortunes as they continued to execute their offense while getting second and third opportunities to sink the rock in the cotton. It paid dividends as Unicoi County went to the dressing room with a 24-10 edge at the intermission.
   Both teams played even basketball to open the second session as Valnessha Redd scored five straight points to pull the Lady Cyclones within 11 with 2:39 remaining in the quarter. However, the deficit was the closest that EHS was going to get until game's end because the Lady Devils didn't relinquish their lead to any less than the 11 points that Elizabethton had managed to slice away.
   "If you had told me that we would keep Unicoi County to 42 points and still lose, I wouldn't have believed you," said Lady Cyclone coach Mike Wilson. "We got in that hole early and these kids came out in the second half and got after it, we just couldn't pull it off."
   Elizabethton trailed 32-18 heading into the last quarter and couldn't muster enough to do anything but watch as the Lady Blue Devils maintained their cushion and gave Coach Fisher another title for the school trophy case.
   "Getting that cushion is always crucial in a game like this," stated Fisher. "Elizabethton has played us tough twice this season and I really didn't expect anything else tonight but a close game."
   Senior Amber Bailey led the charge for Unicoi County as she poured in 13 points while Elizabeth Weaver knocked down 10. Hali Sparks and Candace Shelton each had solid games netting eight and six points respectively.
   Lane, playing in her last district tournament, showed the way for Elizabethton with 10 points. Baughman struggled early on, but managed to pencil nine in her column. Redd and senior Sarah Smith each notched five points apiece.
   Each team has already qualified for the regional tournament set to begin next week at Elizabethton High School.
   Central.......................................54
   Volunteer...................................35
   Central claimed third place honors in the tournament as they defeated a much improved Volunteer Lady Falcon squad by doing something they couldn't do against Unicoi County and that was rebound effectively and running the fast break in building a 15-4 edge after one quarter and then pull away late in the second half for the win.
   "That fast start was really a big boost because we were able to run a variety of defenses and rebound the ball effectively," said Central coach Gary Surcey. "We have one senior and one junior so we are young and this is a big win for us to finish third in the district."
   Central saw Volunteer make a run late in the first half as they trimmed the lead to 9 points, but some adjustments made by Surcey at halftime revved the Lady Cougars back up as by the end of the third period they had pushed that 9 point edge back up to 15 heading into the third quarter.
   The Lady Falcons played with a lot of heart, but Central continued to peck away at Volunteer and held on for a big 19 point victory. The difference could have been in the number of weapons Surcey managed to put on the court for Central versus what coach Dennis Anderson could counter with from the Lady Falcons
   Never the less, Coach Anderson was pleased with his teams performance.
   "I am really excited about our program's future because over the last two and a half weeks the younger girls have come on strong and we won 5 of 8 coming down the stretch," said Anderson. "The regional will be a great learning experience because of it's prestige and who knows, we might come out here and play hard allowing us to beat some people in the tournament."
   Kristie Moody paced the winners with 19 with Beth Shelton chipping in with 15 points for the victors. Kayla Vaughn added 10 as well for Central.
   Senior Rebecca Manis and sophomore Jacklyn Talbert were the mainstays for Volunteer as each Lady Falcon collected seven each.
   Both teams will advance with Elizabethton and Unicoi County to next week's regional at Elizabethton High School.