Region 1-AA  finals proved to be classic

By Allen LaMountain

   It had all the elements for heart-pounding, sweaty-palms, and down-to-the wire action this latest Region 1-AA championship played Thursday night at Treadway Gymnasium.
   The Elizabethton Lady Cyclones fell to the Unicoi County Lady Blue Devils, who simply did what they have done all season -- and that is put together a solid team effort mixed with outstanding rebounding and defense, and you have the recipe for a region championship celebration in Erwin.
   In the boys championship game the Johnson County Longhorns nearly pulled off an enormous upset as senior wing Matt Cornett -- who had simply taken the Longhorns on his shoulders -- was the 'Horns' heart and soul.
   The 'Horns' heart, and it's championship hopes, were lost however when Cornett drew his fifth personal foul in the middle of the fourth period. At the 4:24 mark of the fourth quarter Cornett attempted to save a loose ball and went over the back of Cyclone center Vince Redd and was whistled for his fifth.
   Up to that point Cornett had done what he had done since the Region tournament began and that was to show his teammates the way to victory, and was doing so against 'Betsy as well.
   Cornett finished with 19 points on the night, and scored 68 points (22.7 per game) for the tournament, and had Johnson County won, would have been the hands-down MVP.
   Cyclone senior wing Jordan Lambert was named MVP for his solid contributions to the second consecutive Regional win for EHS. Lambert scored a team-high 45 points (15.0 per game) and was second on the squad with 28 boards, and it was Lambert's clutch free throws that turned things around in 'Betsy's favor against Johnson County.
   "I'm not real big on individual awards," said Lambert. "It's more rewarding to get this win tonight, and I give it all to my teammates. We needed to play with a lot of heart at the end to get it done. It felt like there were 5,000 people in here, and we were a little scared after the first half. But big players make big time plays and we did that down the stretch."
   Meaghan Headley was named tournament MVP and she was well deserving.
   Headley scored 43 points (14.3 per game) and participated as a playmaker with five assists and five steals on the defensive end of the floor.
   Lady Blue Devil senior wing Candace Shelton was outstanding all tournament long with a team-high 22 rebounds while scoring 33 points (11.0 per game).
   The Lady Devils led by 26-20 at the break, but a second half Lady Cyclone surge led by Sarah Smith and Valneesha Redd saw EHS claw back to forge a tie late in the final period.
   The Lady Devils superiority on the glass was a major factor in the Unicoi win as EHS was out-rebounded 21-13 by the more physical Blue Devils. Elizabeth Weaver took down a 20 boards in the tournament and was good for a game-high eight versus 'Betsy.
   Sarah Smith led the Lady Cyclones with 14 points on the night and tallied 32 (second to Lacy Lane who had 34) points for the tournament. Brandi Forbes held up well in the post although the physicality of the Unicoi girls' wore her down a bit. Forbes had 19 points and a dozen rebounds in the tournament and scored five against Unicoi County.
   Rikki Baughman was held in check with just two points and five rebounds in the championship game, but she was the target of constant double-teaming by the Lady Devils.
   Baughman finished the tournament with 23 points (7.7 per game) and 24 boards.
   The Lady Cyclones will travel to Knoxville to take on Austin-East on Saturday night at 7 p.m. while the Cyclones will face the loser of the Alcoa vs Fulton who play in the Region 3 title contest tonight.