Lady Cyclones take measure of West Greene

By Ivan Sanders

   If you like offense, the game between the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones and the West Greene Lady Buffalos probably seemed like being at a turtle race, but for the Lady Cyclones the slow pace played into their favor as they advanced to their first regional title contest since the 1995 season when they went to substate while playing at the AAA level.
   After suffering through a poor shooting performance early, Brandi Forbes scored the go-ahead bucket with 1:25 left and then hit two key free throws with :13 left to play in helping the Lady Cyclones overtake their second tough opponent in two nights by defeating the West Greene Lady Buffalos, 39-34, in A.L. Treadway Gym on Wednesday evening.
   "I tell you, I think there at the end that our kids decided that they were going to take this game and they did," said a smiling Lady Cyclone head coach Mike Wilson. "The coaches have encouraged Brandi to put the ball on the floor and take it to the hole and it makes you feel good to see the kids finally do what you have tried to teach them. I believe that when Brandi did that in the final minute and scored that it really broke them."
   The scorekeepers had to thumb wrestle to stay awake early as neither team seemed to be able to get untracked offensively. As the first period ended, the scoreboard read a whopping 6-6.
   Each team seemed to loosen up in the second quarter as the Lady Cyclones managed to build a slim three-point advantage at 13-10 with 3:42 left in the half.
   West Greene made a run to even the score at 18-18 with a few ticks left to play before intermission and then took a minuscule two point halftime lead as Jaclyn Burger took the ball the length of the court and scored as time expired to give the Lady Buffalos their first lead of the game at 20-18.
   Sarah Smith tallied six points in the first 16:00 minutes of action while Rikki Baughman netted five for the Lady Cyclones. Laura Willet was the leading scorer for West Greene in the half as she tickled the twine for 8 points with Jessica Snead pitching in with six points.
   "It was a matter of will and wanting it more than they did," said Smith after the game. "We rebounded and boxed out well and changing the defense gave us an opportunity to take a break from the man-to-man by getting out on their shooters better. It's been a while since playing for a regional title for the Lady Cyclones and we are ready."
   Behind the stellar play of Smith and Baughman, EHS soon regained some of the momentum they had lost late in the first half as Baughman gave the Lady Cyclones some breathing room at 24-20 after converting a traditional three point play at 4:07 of the third period.
   After West Greene tried to pull even closer, Smith then made a steal and bucket to push the Cyclone lead back to four at 27-23 with 1:20 showing on the period's time. The quarter came to an end with the same score of 27-23 in favor of EHS.
   A Tanya Dykes bucket at 6:46 of the final period kept the Lady Cyclones in the drivers seat by a score of 29-26. Each team fought and scraped back and forth until the Lady Buffalos took a short lived 34-33 edge before Lacy Lane converted one of two free throws to knot the score at 34-34.
   That is when Forbes kicked in with her heroics as the junior post player took a pass at the foul line and shot straight through the West Greene defense for a easy lay-up at 1:25 to give her team the lead back at 36-34. After :52 seconds ticked off the clock to the :33 second mark, Forbes was at it again as she drew a foul on a turn around jump shot and calmly sank both foul shots to pad the lead at four, 38-34.
   "We needed the points so I took the ball to the hole," stated Forbes with a smile. "I saw that I had a wide-open lay-up, and I just had the confidence that I was going to make it. Our pressure defense was the key to the game."
   Baughman hit one of two foul shots with :13 left to provide the final margin for Elizabethton.
   Smith and Baughman each finished the night with 10 points with Baughman hauling down 15 boards. Forbes finished with 9 points, including the game-clinching points.
   Many people have thought the success of this season to be the result of a rebuilding campaign for the Lady Cyclones, but in evaluating his team's performance Coach Wilson had a different outtake on the success this team has achieved.
   "We really have never had a bad girls program here at Elizabethton, just a couple of off years where the talent level may have dropped off due to some key players moving from this area, and not having the type of talent needed to compete at the AAA level," said Wilson. "This is really our third time in nine years of advancing to sub-state play, with two of those being in AAA."
   Added Wilson: "These players deserve all the credit because of the quality they possess. It's nothing that the coaches do, but it is all in the talent they have beginning with Beth Holtsclaw the last couple of years and including the Lacy Lane's, the Rikki Baughman's, the Tanya Dykes, and the Valnessha Redd's of this year's program to the seventh and eighth grade teams at T.A. Dugger. The quality of the players make all the difference."
   For the Lady Cyclones, they have only a few short hours to relish the big win as they now must get focused for a tough Unicoi County team that was pushed to the limit by the Lady Cougars of Central before pulling out a 42-33 win to advance to the title game opposite Elizabethton. Game time is 6:30 p.m. tonight at Elizabethton.