Baileyball sparks 'Clones

'Betsy rides play of senior guard to win over North

Photo by Kristen Luther
The Cyclones' Brandon Blevins surveys the floor while he handles the basketball at Treadway Gym on Friday night.

By Jeff Birchfield

   Elizabethton guard Lester Bailey is living proof the hand is quicker than the eye.
   The speedy Bailey pick-pocketed Sullivan North to the tune of four steals in the second half, leading his Cyclones to a 63-56 win over the visiting Golden Raiders.
   "He's so quick I think he could change tires on a moving car," quipped EHS head coach Tony Hardin. "He's fun to watch.
   "We rested him three or four times. He would have rather been on the floor, but I think it helped him. He was breaking their defense down and looking for people. He did a really good job."
   Bailey agreed with his coach that giving him breathers throughout the second half was the right decision.
   "We came out and played hard, pressuring the ball," said Bailey, who tallied 10 points for EHS. "I was getting a little tired. My legs were giving out on me. Coach brought in that second group in and it gave us a little rest. They stepped up tremendously."
   Bailey also made a shot that changed the course of the game. Getting a dish from Brandon Blevins, Bailey nailed a trey from the right side of the court just before the third period buzzer sounded.
   "Brandon Blevins was looking at me the whole time," said Bailey. "I gave him the ball and he just gave it back to me. It's good eye-coordination is what I like about it."
   Early bullseye shooting from Sullivan North proved scarier to Cyclone fans than the home team's Halloween-colored uniforms. The Golden Raiders knocked down four treys in the first quarter, three of them coming from C.J. Minnick.
   Those baskets allowed the Raiders to lead 19-15 at the end of one stanza. By the middle of the second quarter, the Cyclones had pulled even when Bradley Brown followed his own shot and tied the game at 22-all.
   Elizabethton eventually took a three-point lead before a pair of scores by Aaron Hartley and Minnick handed the lead back to North, 27-26, at the halftime break.
   The third quarter saw the lead swapping continue with Bailey's aforementioned basket putting EHS up 38-37 at the end of three.
   A pair of Chris Frazier free throws to start the final quarter put North ahead one final time before the quick-handed Bailey made a steal and then followed up with an assist to Jonathan Laing.
   Running the floor well, Laing was a key in the 'Betsy win. He ended up scoring 10 points as the Cyclones pulled away in the final minutes.
   "Jonathan has gotten better and better," said Hardin. "He makes some good decisions with the ball in his hands. He had a good game and stepped up. When you're a good team, different guys have to do that."
   Overall, Charles Peters led the Cyclones in scoring with a dozen points.
   The famous football preview show "Leonard's Losers" might have dubbed this a battle between the Bloomingdale Yellow Bandits and the Betsy Town Twisters.
   At the end of the night, the Bandits were twisted into the loss column thanks in large part to an overall strong team effort from Elizabethton.
   Besides the Peters, Bailey and Laing trio scoring in double figures, Adam Turley posted eight points and Derrick Nave added seven.
   Blevins came up with the night's finest defensive play in the first quarter. Blevins showed an impressive burst of closing speed when he blocked a breakaway basket attempt by North's Dammion Thomas.
   Throughout the game, Minnick continued to be the biggest offensive threat for the Golden Raiders. He sliced and diced his way to the basket when he wasn't bombing outside for a game-high 25 points. Thomas with nine points was the Raiders' next highest scorer.
   After losing a two-point affair the night before to Volunteer, North fell to 4-6 in the Watauga Conference and 10-12 overall. Elizabethton improved to 6-4 in league play, one game outside first place, and upped their overall record to 11-10.
   "I felt like it was a great team win," said Hardin. "Late in the game our kids spread the floor, moved the ball and got the shots we wanted. We played a smarter game tonight.
   "It wasn't a pretty game to watch, but North has a style that makes you play that way. They try to wear you down, but we kept our intensity up through that. It was a good win for us."
   Also of note, it was basketball Homecoming Night with Katie Presnell crowned the 2004 Homecoming Queen.