EHS girls swamped by Unicoi

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   ERWIN -- Monday night's anticipated showdown quickly became a Cyclone shutdown. Unicoi County easily defeated Elizabethton 49-28 to win the 2003-04 Watauga Conference girls' championship.
   Whether you talked about their 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter, a 27-9 halftime advantage, a 39-13 lead after three or a 29-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the night belonged to the Lady Devils.
   "I didn't expect it, but I could forsee it happening either way after many close games," said UC head coach Glenn Fisher about the surprisingly easy victory. "Both teams have a lot of talent. We played well tonight and they didn't. If it would have been the other way around they could have easily beat us like that."
   Unicoi County's defense was particularly strong as only one EHS player had scored at the end of one quarter, only two players by the half and only three players at the end of three quarters. At that point, the Lady Devils were on their way to accomplishing a preseason goal.
   "One of our goals at the start of the year was to be Watauga Conference champions," said Fisher. "We have been the team to beat and we get everybody's best effort when we play them. We've gotten used to that. I was proud of our players with the defense we played."
   That didn't set well with Lady Cyclone leading scorer Rikki Baughman, the only EHS player to top double figures with 13 points.
   "Half of us came out to play and the other half didn't," stated Baughman. "When we play Erwin, all of us have to be ready to play. We weren't ready tonight."
   Elizabethton guard Whitney Bishop agreed that the Lady Cyclones performed nowhere near the level they are capable of. In the first meeting between the teams at Treadway Gym, it took two overtimes for the Lady Devils to finally prevail.
   "I don't think we executed with the ball at all," said Bishop. "We made some really poor decisions. We didn't play defense. Some of us were ready to play and some of us weren't. You look at Unicoi and all of them came ready to play."
   Certainly ready to play was Erwin point guard Meghan Headley, who did a marvelous job running the Blue Devil offense. She scored 11 points on the evening.
   "We had more heart than they did and were more focused," said Headley. "We knew that if we lost it would be a tie for the championship. We didn't want a tie, we wanted to win it. It's really important to stay focused, keep our heads into it and play hard every game. If we do that, we should win."
   The leading scorer for Unicoi County was Hali Sparks, who netted 13 points.
   "We were really into this game and knew what we had to do tonight," said Sparks. "We were aware of the competition we were facing. I think we played better defense tonight than the last time we faced them. We were better prepared on what they were going to do."
   Amber Kerns with three big baskets behind the three-point line scored nine points for Unicoi County, while Elizabeth Weaver added eight points.
   Scorers for Elizabethton included Tanya Dykes and Valnessha Redd each with four points, Cameron Crapps with three and Victoria Hopson with two.
   Unicoi County improved to 23-3 on the season with the victory before taking on West Greene tonight.
   Elizabethton, despite being shaken, still remains confident heading into the District 1-AA tournament in a few days.
   "They beat us, but our team can play better when we keep our heads on our shoulders," Baughman said.