Cyclones drop home finale

By Jeff Birchfield

   Red hot 14-of-18 shooting in the first half helped Tennessee High spoil Elizabethton boys basketball team's Senior Night with a 66-41 victory.
   "They're a good Triple-A basketball team, good enough to win their conference," said Elizabethton head coach Tony Hardin. "We met them on a night when they were shooting very well. It was a good game for us to raise our play when we enter the district."
   Tennessee High jumped out to an early 10-2 lead thanks to three early scores by center Drew Porter. At 6-9, 260 pounds, Porter dominated the inside for the Vikings.
   His giant presence forced the defense to collapse, leaving wide-open outside shots for teammate Matt Buchanan. All the while, Viking point guard DeShaun Johnson was playing the role of floor general.
   "When we get it to Drew early no one can guard him," stated Bristol head coach Dale Burns. "It's like football when you run it. If you get it inside, it opens up outside shots.
   "The key thing was DeShaun pushing it off the dribble. It was all about positioning. The game is about keeping it from where they want the ball and getting it where you want it."
   That simple philosophy was successful throughout the game.
   Trailing 19-8 at the end of one quarter, the Cyclones made a small run to close the margin to 27-18 after a pair of Chris Vaughn baskets.
   Porter and Buchanan promptly responded with scores to end the half. Three more scores to start the third quarter made it ten straight points for Bristol since Elizabethton closed up.
   By the end of the third, the Vikings were solidly out front with a 47-24 lead.
   Vaughn downed a pair of treys early in the fourth, but the Cyclones could never cut into the lead. Jordan Peters scored the last score of the game with a trey for the final, but Tennessee High was simply too much on this night.
   Certainly outsiders might question why schedule a game against a team that has beaten all the area's top teams including Science Hill, only one night removed from a tough Unicoi County contest?
   To that question Hardin responded, "Playing back-to-back is tough, but you're looking down the road. You play good competition to make yourself better. You might look at the score and say, 'Why are you doing that?' You have to play better people to get better."
   That concept wasn't lost on the team, as attested by senior post Bradley Brown.
   "Playing good competition right before the tournament will get us sharp and focused," said Brown. "It helps us get ready for the good teams in the tournament. We've beat every team in the conference except Volunteer. We think we can play and have a good shot down the road."
   Buchanan led the Vikings in scoring with 16 points. Porter scored 15 despite sitting out most of the final quarter, and Johnson added 13.
   Vaughn was the only Cyclone to hit double digits with 11 points. Adam Turley and Lester Bailey each scored six points for EHS, with Derrick Nave adding five.
   Brown said losing the home finale' still couldn't diminish what the night meant for those playing their last regular season game in Treadway Gymnasium.
   "The seniors have a lot of good memories from the program," said Brown. "It was good to be out on the home floor one more time in front of our fans."
   With the victory, Tennessee High improved to 21-9 on the season. Elizabethton evened out its regular season at 13-13.
   Lady Cyclones 50
   Lady Vikings 48
   Showing the hearts of champions, Elizabethton's girls recovered from an embarrassing loss the night before against Unicoi County to beat the No. 2 seed in District 1-AAA.
   "They wanted to show they were better than last night," said head coach Mike Wilson of his Lady Cyclone team. "They bounced back and I was proud of them."
   Trailing 14-10 early in the second quarter, Rikki Baughman put the Cyclones on top for good by scoring nine consecutive points. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Baughman had 11 in the second period and 22 overall in the game. She also pulled down 6 rebounds.
   At the half, the Lady Cyclones led 25-18. Courtney Watkins then took over for Tennessee High in the third quarter, making their last five scores of the period. Going into the last quarter, the score was tight 38-32 in favor of EHS.
   Determined not to let Watkins and the Lady Vikes beat them, Elizabethton coach assigned defensive players Tanya Dykes and Brandi Forbes to slow down No. 14.
   On Senior Night, the two fourth-year players stepped up to the challenge, holding Watkins scoreless as the Lady Cyclones raced out to a 46-34 lead.
   "We shut Watkins down in the fourth quarter," said Wilson. "Brandi probably moves her feet better than any post player we have. She also got a big rebound late in the game."
   In fairness to Watkins, she had to sit on the sidelines part of the final quarter due to foul trouble by still managed a game-high 23 points.
   When Watkins came back in the game, she helped spark a Viking rally based on defense. Down by 12 points with 3:12 left in the game, the lead was down to four with a half minute to play. However, Watkins misfired with 23 seconds left and Forbes grabbed the most important rebound of the night.
   Forbes then threw an outlet pass to Cameron Crapps, who was promptly fouled.
   Crapps hit a free throw with 12 seconds remaining to put EHS up 50-45 before Watkins sank a trey with only three seconds left. Using their heads, the Lady 'Clones held the ball out of bounds until the final seconds ticked away.
   "I thought we really played hard in the fourth quarter," said Forbes. "We played good defense. We knew she (Watkins) would take it to the goal and we concentrated on stopping her."
   About her role in shutting down the Lady Vikings and deflecting passes intended to crack the interior of the EHS defense, Dykes said, "We just played our regular match-up and we just tried to execute. I just try to be on defense where I need to be. After last night we had to play harder tonight to make up for it."
   Their atonement was winning this matchup of No. 2 seeds in upcoming District 1 tournaments.
   "They're a good basketball team," said Tennessee High head coach Kim Bright. "We're glad we got to play them. Hopefully it will help us prepare for tournament time.
   "It was Senior Night for them and they played with a lot of emotion. I knew we were in for it when I saw how they got beat last night. We executed and had some good looks at the basket, but didn't finish the job."
   Jenna Rickard and Sarah Goodman each scored six points for the Lady Vikings, who now sport a 20-10 overall record.
   Valnessha Redd had nine points, Michaela Pietrowski netted eight and Dykes added seven points and six boards for the victorious Lady Cyclones.
   EHS finished the regular season 18-7 before entering the District 1-AA tournament against Sullivan North on Friday night.