Cyclones knock back Devils; UC tops 'Betsy girls in two overtimes

Photo by Rick Harris
The Lady Cyclones' Brandi Forbes launches a mid-range shot.

By Jeff Birchfield
Using tough pressure defense and a 16-point scoring effort from Adam Turley, Elizabethton's boys stayed in the fight for the Watauga Conference regular season championship by beating Unicoi County 62-54 Tuesday night at A.L. Treadway Gym.
"We pride ourselves in our defense," said Elizabethton head coach Tony Hardin. "We hang our hats on that. We're mixing up what we're doing, kind of keeping the other team confused. Our defensive intensity was good and we had a good effort all night.
"We've developed a little more depth as the season has went along and it gives us the chance to pressure a little more."
Unicoi County came to fight early as Matt White hit a trey and Ryan Corn added two more behind the arc to give them a 12-10 lead late in the first quarter.
Not to be outdone, Bradley Brown converted on a bucket and free throw and Derrick Nave had two scores to put the Cyclones up 18-14 by the end of the period.
In the second EHS raced out to a seven-point lead, thanks in part to hitting its first six foul shots. At the half, the Cyclones harbored a 32-26 advantage.
Turley started off the second half in style. The first Blue Devil possession, he made a steal on the defensive end and on the Cyclones' first offensive possession, he popped a three.
Jonathan Grindstaff scored twice for Unicoi to trim the lead to five midway through the third as the Cyclone starters rested. However, the EHS reserves did maintain the lead, with their positive minutes a key factor, according to coach Hardin.
Turley's second trey and a dunk by Brandon Blevins pushed EHS' lead back to ten, 47-37, entering the final period.
"We want to stay energetic on defense," said Turley. "We came out and had a big game and made big plays. We've been practicing and getting in shape lately. We've been pressuring the ball to get more offensive chances. We want to keep it up and continue to play hard."
Unicoi County cut the lead to seven points on two occasions, but was never able to mount a serious threat.
"Defensively they gave us fits," said Blue Devil coach John English. "Their defense is the best in the conference and we didn't handle the pressure. We turned the ball over and over and over. We had a lot of chances to get in the game, but turnovers were the story of the game.
"We had some guys not show up to play. You can't come on the road in this league and get wins if everybody doesn't come to play. One or two showing up doesn't get it done."
Elizabethton with a league record of 7-4 and an overall record of 12-9 got nine points from Jonathan Laing, eight points from Lester Bailey and six from Charles Peters. Blevins, J.C. Atkinson and Chris Vaughn each scored five for the Cyclones.
The Blue Devils (3-6, 9-11) received 17-point efforts from White and Corn. Derek Hess added nine in the losing cause.
Turley took little time to enjoy the victory turning his attention to a game at conference leader Volunteer on Friday.
"We're getting ready for Friday, a big conference win would put us in first (place)," said Turley. "They (Volunteer) came here and snuck a good one on us at home, so we are going to work hard in practice to go over there and play with a lot of heart and a lot of aggression."
Lady Devils 50
Lady Cyclones 47 (2OT)
Fans came in anticipation of a showdown between league leaders in the girls game. A showdown was what they got as Unicoi County beat the Lady Cyclones 50-47 in a double overtime thriller.
The difference came at the free throw line, where the Lady Devils hit an amazing 22-of-26 shots.
"They shot free throws so well, I thought they did a better job tonight than anybody," said EHS head coach Mike Wilson. "Quite honestly an average night we probably win the game, they don't hit 22-of-26.
"Free throw shooting and then we turn it over a couple of times. We had good opportunities. Eddie Carver used to always talk about free throws and lay-ups. Free throws got us tonight."
Lady Devil coach Glenn Fisher admitted his team's dead-eye aim at the charity stripe was even a little surprising to himself.
"We've had games where we've shot really good and games we've shot horrendous," said Fisher. "You shouldn't look at it like this, but we've been good making crucial game-on-the-line free throws. We just stepped up all the time on this one.
"It was a gut game for both teams. Elizabethton could have won just as easily as us."
Hard-fought throughout, the game was knotted up 20-20 at the half. After trailing 13-10 at the end of one quarter, Unicoi County used five three-pointers in the first half for the midway tie.
In the third, EHS pulled out to a slight advantage and led 33-28 at the end of the quarter. They maintained a three to five point lead most of the final period. After Elizabeth Weaver hit a bucket with 1:39 left to bring the Lady Devils within one, Rikki Baughman cleaned up a Cyclone miss with 44 seconds left to hand EHS a three-point lead.
Weaver was fouled the next time downcourt, making one of two free throws. More importantly she got her own offensive rebound and was fouled by Baughman, the fifth foul for the EHS star.
UCHS' Hali Sparks missed a jumper at the end of regulation, sending the 41-41 game into overtime. In the first extra period, only two points were scored by each team. Once again the Lady Devils had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Amber Stevens missed a put-back off a Amber Kerns shot.
The third time to put the game away was the charm for Unicoi County. Fittingly it was Kerns and Stevens who made free throws for the final scores. Elizabethton almost forced a third overtime when Brandi Forbes launched a trey that barely missed as time expired.
Despite leading scorer Baughman being absent for the overtime periods, the Lady Cyclones matched Unicoi County punch for punch to the final second.
"We played without her four minutes even," said Wilson. "Even in the second overtime, it wasn't like we folded the tents and got whipped. We were still right there and if that shot goes in, we're playing a third overtime."
Baughman led the team with 13 points, while Valneesha Redd added 11 and Michaela Pietrowski had eight. For the Blue Devils, Weaver led all scorers pouring in 17 followed by Meghan Headley with 14 points, including three shots behind the three-point line.
The Lady Cyclones now await a rematch in Erwin on Feb. 16.
"It was big for everyone to step up and play," said point guard Whitney Bishop. "We tried our hardest. We wanted to win this one bad as we've been wanting to beat them for a really long time.
"They're the team to beat. Next time we go to their place, we have to beat them."
Unicoi County is now the league leader with a 8-1 conference record and a 17-3 overall mark. The Lady Cyclones are 9-2 in the Watauga and 14-6 overall on the season.