'Betsy shows Tigers semifinal exit

By Ivan Sanders

   Pigeon Forge had not seen Elizabethton in action, but by the time the game was over the Tigers had seen all they wanted and more of the balanced Cyclone offensive attack and had the strong taste of leather in their mouths after eating several rejections on the offensive end of the floor.
   Racing out to a commanding 18-2 first period advantage, the Cyclones starting five built up a 29-point lead and turned the game over to the bench in the closing moments to advance to their second straight regional title tilt with a 51-34 win over Pigeon Forge in A.L. Treadway Gymnasium on Wednesday afternoon.
   "We came out really intense tonight, giving up only one field goal in the first half which is a tremendous defensive effort," Cyclone coach Tony Hardin said in reflecting on the game. "In the second half, we got into a rhythm and were able to get Vince several touches on the inside while getting several good minutes out of the rest of the guys as well."
   Pigeon Forge had to feel like they had been shot with a tranquilizer gun in the first half as the Tigers never could get on track. They finally got their feet under them to add a few points on the board in the second quarter, but Elizabethton took a 26-11 advantage to the locker room at intermission.
   The only down side for the Cyclones in the half was the foul situation that saw the Cyclones whistled for 15 fouls to only five for Pigeon Forge. Lester Bailey and Brad Holtsclaw where both saddled with three fouls in the half and as a result had to spend some time beside the coaching staff on the pines.
   "They didn't want to let us play and as a result we were called for the fouls," said Holtsclaw. "Lester and I need to learn to be smarter out there, but it just feels good to win tonight, and we are wanting to win tomorrow so we can get the home-court advantage for sub-state."
   Miller and Charles Peters played superbly in the first half as each Cyclone penciled in eight points in their scoring column. Peters continued to play effectively for the Cyclones off the bench as the freshman did yeomen's work on the boards along with his offensive output. Jordan Lambert and Vince Redd contributed nicely with five in the half.
   Matthew Sapp's four points and Tyler Cannon's three points paced the Tigers with both players collecting all their points from the line.
   The Cyclones slammed the cage door shut in the third quarter. After Lambert drilled a trey with 3:35 left in the period, the Tigers fate all but appeared to be doomed as the Cyclones had grabbed a 39-16 edge. EHS wasn't done and by the time the horn sounded, the game was for all intents over as the 'Clones held a 44-18 lead.
   To add salt to the deep wound, Redd's big slam dunk at the 7:00 minute mark of the fourth brought the student body to their feet and the celebration was on as the reserves begin to allow the starters to each receive a well-deserved ovation from the home crowd for their night's work.
   "We have to win one game at a time," quipped Redd in the winner's locker room. "We wanted to go out tonight and play hard on defense and I knew I needed to do my thing in the middle to help the team."
   Redd came on strong in the second half to finish as the leading scorer with 18 as well as collecting several boards and blocked shots. Lambert had another good night, adding 14 points with Miller and Peters finishing with the eight points they scored in the first half.
   Cannon paced Pigeon Forge with seven points. A.J. Woodrick, Allen Dewyse, and Derrick Norris tallied six points apiece in the losing cause.
   Although many people felt like the Cyclones would reach the regional finals again, Coach Hardin was quick to point out the adversity the Cyclones have came through to get to where they are.
   Said Hardin: "It's amazing the adversity we have had to overcome to get to where we are. We have had to work through injuries to several of the kids. Out of our preseason projected lineup, we have lost three of the first seven players we had planned on using. We are just tickled to be here considering all that."
   The Cyclones will face an old nemesis on Thursday in Johnson County as the Longhorns outlasted the Central Cougars for the regional title with the home court advantage at stake. Game time is 8 p.m.