EHS proves move down a step up

   For the Elizabethton Cyclones and Lady Cyclones, the 2001-02 season was a thrill ride that left fans wondering what the squads can do for an encore in 2002-03.
   For the Cyclones, they had to feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield in the respect department, because no matter how well they did, people kept comparing what they did at the AA level to what they would have done at the AAA level.
   Folks, the Cyclones are at the level they are supposed to be according to enrollment figures, and even though they no longer competed in conference tilts against the likes of Tennessee High, Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett, EHS played home and home series against all three nonetheless.
   They didn't win any of those contests, but head coach Tony Hardin said all season that, "The level of competition you play can only make you better, win or lose."
   And even though the Cyclones failed to get over the hump against the top three of Region 1-AAA they all had to admit that playing the Cyclones was no walk in the park as EHS played all three triple A team's tough.
   This -- along with playing some strong competition in the Region 1-2 AA tournament -- bodes well for the growth curve of the Cyclones for next year.
   The Cyclones will return a strong nucleus next year -- losing only senior post Eric Stout to graduation -- and could be poised to make a strong run at the state tournament next season.
   The Cyclones lost a home substate contest to Austin-East, a team that had not only the talent, but the experience, to play well under tough conditions on the road.
   The experience of playing against such a club could carry over to next year when the Cyclones will be better prepared to face the win-or-go-home aspect of a Sub-state contest.
   Betsy could have played much better in this contest and in hindsight, I'm sure they feel that way too, as B.J. Miller, Vince Redd and Jordan Lambert all under achieved in the game scoring just 25 points between them.
   The three had combined for better than 40 points per game during the regular season, and were at least that effective through the regional tournament. However, never having been in such a stressful situation showed that a lack of experience will hurt you as you go up the ladder to the state tourney.
   With the experience of the substate match behind them now, the Cyclones of 2002-03 should be better prepared for what awaits them come tournament time.
   I think Coach Hardin deserves overall good grades for his handling of the team, although I felt he should have played Redd more against Austin-East in the first half, even though he had two fouls on him.
   Elizabethton was dominated on the boards for the first time all year as Redd sat, and even when he came back was the only efficient board crasher for 'Betsy on a night that Hardin had said: "We need to win the battle on the boards to win."
   This is not to criticize coach Hardin or Redd, but to merely make the observation that Redd needs to learn to play with foul trouble and that playing in those situations is the only way he will learn to do that.
   If he does, the Cyclones should be improved, as the top four starters will all be seniors. Walter Brown, Miller, Lambert and Redd along with Lester Bailey, will give 'Betsy the best group of starters in the Watauga Conference and another unbeaten conference mark should be within their reach.
   The Lady Cyclones also are looking confidently into the next season even with the departures of senior post Beth Holtsclaw, and senior point guard Brandy Fairman.
   Holtsclaw took her game to another level in 2001-02, and showed that if she was surrounded with some talent, that she could elevate her game to match that level.
   Holtsclaw averaged 14 points a game and eight boards, while Fairman ran the Cyclone offense effectively and distributed the ball where it needed to go.
   Fairman displayed good ball-handling skills, and showed that the Lady Cyclones would no longer be intimidated by a full-court press, as that had been the mode that teams had used to dominate 'Betsy in past years.
   The Lady Cyclones will return three starters from a group that improved from a two-win season in 2000-01 to 19-wins in 2001-02.
   Lacy Lane, Tanya Dykes and Rikki Baughman will return as starters and will be joined by Sarah Smith at guard and possibly Allison Cook or Brandy Forbes in the post.
   Valneesha Redd must learn to play more under control, but she brings a fiery defensive temperament to the court and if she develops her ball-handling skills, will be an all-conference performer.
   All season long, the Lady Cyclones impressed fans with their vastly improved play, before falling to a very tough South Greene squad in the regional tournament, and the future looks bright indeed for 'Betsy basketball.