Winds blow in Cyclones' favor

EHS gets past Tornadoes for first state berth since '83

By Allen LaMountain

   Ignited by an unsung hero named Brad Holtsclaw -- a player who didn't start until late in the season -- the Elizabethton Cyclones overcame a dangerously slow start to topple the Alcoa Tornadoes 42-41 in Class AA substate action on Monday night at Treadway Gym.
   Holtsclaw, who became a starter when Walter Brown went down with a torn knee ligament, breathed a bit of fire and life into a lethargic 'Betsy squad with unrelenting rebounding and a season-high 11 points.
   "Brad really gave us a lift," said Cyclone senior guard B.J. Miller. "We came out in the first half with a lot of anxious energy that we didn't know what to do with. We had been here before and we shouldn't have been tight. Brad showed that we are a complete team. That everyone can step up and he played great. He gave us new life."
   The win puts Elizabethton (30-4) into the state tournament for the first time since 1983, but it didn't look good for quite a while on this night.
   Alcoa (17-13) looked a step quicker and the more determined team in the opening half as EHS struggled to find itself offensively and had some lapses defensively as the Tornadoes took a 23-18 lead into the locker room.
   Junior post Dennis Dean led the Tornadoes in the first half with six points as Alcoa shot well and rebounded even better, connecting on 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) tries from the floor while outrebounding the bigger Cyclones 14-6.
   "I was disappointed in our play in the first half," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "Not in what we were doing, but in what we weren't. Brad -- being the yeoman player he is -- picked us up and proved that all his hard work has paid off. This is a guy that wasn't starting until Walter got hurt, but game in and game out he gives it his best."
   For its part EHS shot just six-of-20 (30 percent) in the first half with Miller scoring seven and Vince Redd tallying five, but a dozen 'Betsy turnovers led to some easy scoring opportunities for Alcoa.
   "Coach got on us at halftime," said Redd. "We weren't rebounding and he told us we were getting killed on the boards. In the second half we came out and did what we had to do. That's the great thing about this team, Brad stepped up and that got everyone fired up."
   Alcoa opened the contest with a 4-0 lead, but EHS ran off eight straight points on buckets by Miller, Lester Bailey and Redd, but the Tornadoes still led after one quarter 14-8.
   "We got a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half," said Alcoa head coach Micah Marsh. "In the second half we were limited in that regard. The guys gave 110 percent, they are competitors, and I don't care who we play, our intention is always to win. EHS did a good job defensively on us in the second half."
   Holtsclaw's influence on the contest began early in the third quarter as he put back a missed shot by Redd for a deuce and moments later was 'Johnny on the Spot' once again. Bailey attempted a shot that was blocked by Darrell Dean, but Holtsclaw jumped on the loose ball and converted once again as EHS cut the Alcoa lead to 23-22.
   Holtsclaw struck again -- this time with a jump hook in the lane -- as he tallied the first six points of the second half for EHS to give the Cyclones a 24-23 advantage before Nick Pasqua answered for Alcoa with a trey.
   "They were doubling up on Vince down low, so I had to step up," said a jubilant Holtsclaw. "It's my job when I'm on the court to get backside boards and be tough inside. It's so unbelievable I can't describe it. We have worked so hard for two years to get here and we did it."
   'Betsy held the Tornadoes to just four points in the third period as the Cyclones took a slim 31-27 lead going into the final stanza, setting up some real drama down the stretch.
   Andrew Monroe opened the fourth quarter with a steal and layup for Alcoa and converted a deuce moments late to forge a 31-31 tie with 6:42 remaining in regulation.
   Miller knocked home three of his 11 points with a trey to give EHS a 34-31 lead as Marsh called for a timeout.
   When play resumed senior guard Edwin Blair canned a deuce for Alcoa that was answered by a pair of free throws by Redd and another strong bucket inside by Holtsclaw as 'Betsy led 38-33.
   Both Darrell and Dennis Dean then hit baskets for Alcoa before Redd connected on one-of-two from the charity stripe for a 39-37 contest at the 2:14 mark.
   Holtsclaw then hit three-of-four attempts from the free throw line on two possessions that turned the tide the Cyclones way and gave EHS a 42-37 lead.
   "Brad is a testament to the program we have here," said Hardin. "We preach that hard work has positive results and he showed that tonight. I though we played well defensively as a team in the second half, and I told Brad at halftime that this was his type of game. This was the type of game that he can excel at, and he went out there and played his game."
   The outcome was put in doubt when Blair rattled in a three-point bomb that shaved the Cyclone lead to 42-40 and after a steal at the 10-second mark Alcoa in bounded in its own end.
   Derrell Dean drove for the hoop but had his shot deflected by Redd, but a foul was whistled on the play giving Dean a chance to send the game into overtime as just one tick was left showing on the clock.
   Dean's first free throw was true, but with the home crowd stomping its feet and letting loose a torrent of noise Dean's second shot glanced off the front rim where Redd grabbed the rebound as the horn sounded.
   "That free throw didn't lose us the game," said Marsh. "I don't want him to think he lost us the game. A lot of things we didn't do in the second half, and that Elizabethton did do, is what lost it for us."
   Redd finished with 13 points and Miller 11 for the Cyclones. Monroe led Alcoa with nine.