Lady Cyclones put away North in second half

By Marvin Birchfield

   BLOUNTVILLE -- The Sullivan North girls weathered the storm during the first half, but the Lady Cyclones ripped through and shattered glass in the second half to come away for a 68-56 victory at Sullivan Central.
   Elizabethton eliminated the Lady Golden Raiders in the first round of the District 1-AA girls tournament on Friday, as they dominated the boards all game long.
   Sullivan North managed to keep the Cyclones within their sights after a turnover-prone first two quarters of action.
   "We didn't have much intensity the first half, but we got a lot better the second-half," said Elizabethton girls coach Mike Wilson. "We talked at halftime how we were letting them catch it, and then we came out and got some steals for easy buckets."
   Elizabethton went on a run, which produced 16 straight points during the third period, to blow the game open.
   The Cyclones led 15-12 after the first quarter, as Rikki Baughman showed her early presence inside by scoring nine points during the period.
   Baughman finished as the game's high scorer with 24 points and pulled down a total of 19 rebounds on the evening.
   "I thought everybody did really well, and at first we started out slow, but everybody was rebounding especially our post players," said Baughman. "I'm just glad that we won, and after our loss to Unicoi it's become stuck in our heads.
   "We just want to play them again, and we're going to have to start playing defense from the very beginning instead of just the second half."
   Elizabethton enjoyed a three-point lead at the end of the quarter, when Whitney Bishop made a putback off the rebound at the buzzer.
   The Cyclones built an eight-point lead with 5:12 left to play in the half, when Valnessha Redd converted a couple of quick buckets and Cameron Crapps knocked down a three-point goal.
   Sullivan North cut into the deficit at the half, after the Cyclones had trouble taking care of the ball and were called for several reaching fouls.
   "We've talked to our kids about not committing silly fouls, and it's OK to commit some fouls, but some of the ones we did were craziness," said Wilson. "We fouled way too much, and I don't know how many points they had from the line, but it was ridiculous, I'm sure."
   Courtney Ramey hit three of four from the foul line in the last two minutes to shrink the Cyclone lead to 29-26 by halftime.
   The Golden Raiders came out in the third quarter to take an early lead off a couple of field goals from Amanda Frazier and Amanda Carroll.
   It was the first time the Golden Raiders had led since early in the first period, but the wake-up call for Elizabethton was on the brink.
   The Cyclones answered by rattling off 16 consecutive points to go up 45-30 with two and a half minutes left in the third.
   Shots and rebounds inside from Michaela Pietrowski and Baughman took its toll on the North squad.
   "I thought we did a pretty good job down low, and in the first half we had a little bit of trouble, but in the second half we really stepped up," said Pietrowski.
   Pietrowski finished with 12 points on the evening while grabbing seven boards.
   "I don't think I could have made that many points if the other players hadn't done their job also," said Pietrowski. "The post and wing players both boxed out which allowed me to go in and get the rebound." "It was pretty much a team effort."
   Several steals led to transitional buckets for Elizabethton, as it did a much better job the second half with the defensive pressure.
   Elizabethton had stretched the lead out to 52-35 by then end of the third period, with Baughman and Redd nailing two free-throws each in the final minute.
   "At halftime Coach Wilson told us we needed to step up and that we were about to lose this game," said Baughman. "I think it just reminded everybody that this was an important game and we all stepped up really big."
   Sullivan North was able to cut what was once a 20-point deficit almost in half during the first five minutes.
   The Golden Raiders went 10 of 14 from the line in the final period, but the Cyclones were too strong down the stretch in cruising onto victory.
   "We just need to get our defense settled down a little more, and not make so many fouls, which gives them an opportunity to make points from the free-throw line," said Wilson.