Lady Cyclones dispatch Johnson County

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR Staff

   The Lady Cyclones were licking their chops while waiting for their Watauga Conference battle with Unicoi County next week, but first they had to get past Johnson County, which came up short in a 55-42 final on Tuesday night inside Treadway Gym.
   Elizabethton didn't exactly set the woods on fire with the performance it displayed, but the most important thing for the Lady Cyclones was that their effort was good enough to acquire the victory.
   "I think we were a little flat. We're playing Unicoi Monday and I think we're all looking to that," said Elizabethton coach Mike Wilson. "When you play 26 games a year, then you're not going to be as intense as you need to be, especially when you have a big one coming up."
   The Cyclones jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first period, as Valnessha Redd and Whitney Bishop found the mark outside by draining threes.
   Elizabethton continued to extend its advantage to 25-9, after Rikki Baughman sank two free throws with under three minutes left in the half.
   The Longhorns made a run in the final minutes, reeling off nine unanswered scores to cut the margin down to 25-19 at intermission.
   "We missed some really crucial buckets in the first half and in the second half also," said Johnson County coach Eric Crabtree. "If we shoot better, than it's a different ball game."
   Elena Owens had the hot hand to rally Johnson County, as she dropped in her third three-point goal of the quarter at the buzzer.
   The Cyclones got a quick start in the second half by opening up with a 12-3 run.
   A three-point play on a basket inside plus the foul from Michaela Pietrowski gave the Cyclones a 32-19 lead.
   "I think they had a hard time matching up with us, and I talked about it at halftime we needed to keep our big kids in," said Wilson. "Give Johnson County some credit -- they played well."
   Elizabethton led 39-25 at the end of the third quarter, and another strong showing to start the final period saw the Cyclones pull away to a 21-point advantage.
   A basket off the break from Bishop put her into the double-digit figure in scoring for the first time this season, as she finished the night with 10 points.
   "I didn't realize I hadn't been in double-digits until tonight, and I was just shooting the ball real well," said Bishop.
   A couple of three-point goals from Owens and Brittany Cole close the gap down to 11, but this was as close as the Longhorns came.
   "They got up by as many as 20 and kind of went on cruise, but we came back and cut it down to 11, so that shows we have some heart on this team," said Crabtree. "I thought we played OK. Baughman didn't kill us this time, and no other one person did either. It was just that when we stopped one person, then someone else would step in and make a play."
   Elizabethton will play Unicoi Monday. The Lady Cyclones are one game out of first and trying to pull even for a share of the conference crown.
   "I think we we're really looking forward to Unicoi, so we were somewhat flat, so we have to pick up the pace," said Baughman. "They're good all around and really physical, so we need to become just as physical as they are."