Cyclone win too strong for North

By Tim Chambers
STAR CORRESPONDENT
tchambers@starhq.com

   BLOUNTVILLE--To define a cyclone would be a windstorm with violent, whirling movement that spins around in a rapid motion. Thus was the case with the 'Betsy Cyclones Monday night.
   Behind a tenacious defense that had Sullivan North swirling from the outset and a motion offense that was near to perfection, Elizabethton advanced to the semifinals with an 80-65 win over the Golden Raiders at Sullivan Central in the District 1-AA tournament.
   The Cyclones started quick behind the pin-point passing of point guard Lester Bailey, who connected with Brandon Blevins on a layup. North then tied the game at two, which would be the only tie on the evening.
   A runner from Adam Turley gave 'Betsy a 4-2 edge, followed by a jumper from Charles Peters that extended the lead to four.
   Elizabethton suffered an early blow at the 5:03 mark when Turley picked up two quick fouls. Bradley Brown entered the game and quickly paid dividends by hitting a jumper to up the margin at 10-3.
   Playing the part of Superman from a phone booth, Derrick Nave checked in and immediately knocked down three free throws to push the lead to 10 at 13-3.
   North tried to stop the black and orange express with a 10-4 run, but the 'Betsy Bombers were just getting started.
   Two buckets from Brown, a sky-hook followed by a buzzer beater, gave Elizabethton a 19-13 lead after one.
   "My teammates were doing a great job getting the ball to me," said Brown. "I was just trying to step up and do my best."
   North managed to stay close in the second period behind the shooting of C.J. Hackler, but 'Betsy refused to give up the lead. Bailey to Brown kept the margin at six before a Hackler trey cut the lead at 21-18.
   Chris Vaughn's three ball from the deep corner followed by Brown's 10th point of the half extended the margin back at 26-18. After a Dammion Thomas bucket, Vaughn struck again with another three to give 'Betsy a 29-22 advantage.
   Nave's three followed by a Bailey tip-in in the closing seconds gave Elizabethton a 34-26 lead at intermission.
   Betsy's offense came out in the third period hotter than a polar bear standing in the middle of the Sahara Desert with a snowsuit on. Charles Peters connected on a three-point play to extend the lead to 11 at the 7:50 mark.
   Turley returned with a basket, then a three-point dagger from Nave to push the lead to 12. Nave continued to be a thorn in the side for the Golden Raider defense, connecting on nine points in the quarter by way of the three en route to his game-high 19 points.
   "I was getting the ball in great position to shoot," stated Nave. "Lester (Bailey) is just awesome at getting everyone the ball. He deserves much of the credit for us being so open."
   The Cyclones continued to get great support from the bench, with J.C. Atkinson nailing a jumper in the paint. Blevins continued to play well with a hard drive to the hoop followed by another launch from Nave.
   Blevins brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and layin at the buzzer to put 'Betsy up by 20 after three.
   North found the mark in the fourth period scoring 25 points, but the Cyclone reserves would answer with 20 points in the quarter.
   'Betsy got some outstanding minutes off the bench from Ben Hardin and Jonathan Laing throughout the game, which benefited the Cyclones immensely.
   Troop Harris, Weston Jeffers and Dustin Henson knocked down points in the fourth stanza while Jordan Peters played some solid defense for the 'Betsy boys.
   The highlight of the evening came in the fourth quarter when Blevins threw down a monster dunk that rocked the Cougar cage to the fans delight.
   Brown added 12 points for the Cyclones while Blevins and Charles Peters tossed in 10 and nine, respectively, to pace the 'Betsy offense.
   "We did a great job running our offense tonight," stated Cyclone coach Tony Hardin. "We made good decisions on offense and defense."
   Coach Hardin commended the team on earning its sixth trip to the regional in the last nine years.
   "We had some great kids throughout the years and this group is no different," he said. "It's a good night for Cyclone basketball."
   The Cyclones face Volunteer Wednesday night at 6:30 followed by Happy Valley and Sulllivan Central at 8 in the nightcap.
   All four teams automatically qualify for next week's regional tournament at Morristown West High School.