Cyclones ready for collision with Alcoa

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   There are storm warnings posted for Elizabethton tonight as the forecast calls for Tornadoes to move into the area for a brief visit while some Cyclones are looking to gain strength to move into Murfreesboro over the coming weekend.
   Now, don't be afraid because after all we are talking about the Alcoa Tornadoes and the Elizabethton Cyclones, but you can count on there being a head-on collision between two very hot high school basketball teams looking to sign their name on the dotted line for a trip to Middle Tennessee State University and a place in the TSSAA state group AA playoffs.
   Alcoa is coming to town after being upset on their homecourt in the Region 2-AA finals against Knox-Fulton by the score of 59-47 while Elizabethton is playing at home thanks in part to a big fourth quarter rally over Johnson County, a team that held a 14-point lead going into the final eight minutes of play before the Cyclones rallied to take the win.
   "Traditionally, Alcoa is a team that is very good and have been to the state several times in the past," said Elizabethton head coach Tony Hardin. "Coach Micah Marsh replaced his dad that had been the coach for 40 years before retiring at Alcoa so he (Micah) has been around the program and there is a lot of tradition associated with their basketball team."
   Alcoa is a team that will provide a headache for any coach as they have four players that average double figures in scoring. They rely on their big man, 6-4 Derrell Dean, who scored 23 points and pulled down eight boards in being named to the All-Tournament team in their game against Fulton.
   Guard play also is strong as 5-10 Nick Pasqua, who averaged 9.4 points per game and is steady from the free throw line hitting 85.5 percent for the season, will present a challenge for Lester Bailey of EHS. Bailey will need to realize his importance to the team and stay away from committing fouls and eliminating turnovers while being out of control with his speed.
   "The scary part of playing Alcoa is they are playing hot basketball right now," said Hardin. "They are playing very well and had a great run to close out the season."
   For Elizabethton to be successful and reach another one of their season's milestones being to get to the state tournament, they will have to rely on the things that has brought them to the point they are at right now. A strong half-court defense and an opportunistic offense will be an important key to the Cyclones if they are to take the wind out of the Tornadoes.
   All Region selections Vince Redd, B.J. Miller, and Region MVP Jordan Lambert will all be important ingredients to the Cyclones recipe from a leadership perspective as well as to keep the Tornadoes subdued on both ends of the courts. Other Cyclones that need to have some quality minutes are Charles Peters, Brad Holtsclaw, and Nathan Coffman. Smart play will need to be employed also to stay out of foul problems and on the floor for most of the game's minutes.
   Some other important keys for Elizabethton include the simple fact the Cyclones don't have to ride the bus for two hours to get to the game site as Alcoa does as well as having a sold out A.L. Treadway Gymnasium filled with Cyclone fans to root them on.
   Said Hardin: "Playing at home certainly will help out by providing a great atmosphere and any team would rather play at home when you get to this stage where you have only 16 of the best teams left in the state's AA class. All of these teams can play so each time you go out you have to come ready and be ready to play good basketball."
   Elizabethton has all the tools needed to get the job done, but the Tornadoes face the same thing the Cyclones do and that is elimination from post season play. If the Cyclone defense can achieve the same level of play it has all season, it could very well be a long night for the Tornadoes and a long bus ride home. Otherwise, the Cyclones might have to absorb their second straight substate disappointment.
   Irregardless, the basketball game on paper looks to be a barn-burner and should provide a lot of high-flying action and exciting basketball for the fans that come out. The fan support has been excellent all season and with a large crowd expected, fans should arrive early to get a good seat.