Recapping Cyclones' path to state tournament

From the outset of the basketball season, the senior-laden Elizabethton Cyclones (30-4) had but one mission for the 2002-03 season, and that was a trip to Murfreesboro in March.
   Well they achieved their goal due to an exciting 42-41 win over Alcoa in the substate game played at Treadway gym on Monday night of last week.
   Brad Holtsclaw - with a determined 11-point, seven-rebound effort -- gave the Cyclones a much-needed second half shot in the arm to help secure the victory.
   "This has been our teams goal all season," said Holtsclaw in the din surrounding the Cyclones after the biggest EHS win in 20 years. "We have stayed focused on that goal, and it feels so good to be able to share it with the fans."
   Betsy got off to a flying start to the season with a closer-than-anticipated win over Watauga Conference rival Sullivan North. In that contest B.J. Miller tied a school record for single game scoring as he tallied 39 points in the 54-37 win.
   The Cyclones did not lose in December, putting up an 8-0 record until Marietta, Ga. dumped EHS 64-45 at the Arby's Classic, thus handing EHS its first loss of the season.
   The Hilltoppers of Science Hill made it two consecutive defeats for 'Betsy with a 67-59 win over the Cyclones in the Arby's, but that would be the only time EHS would lose two in a row.
   January opened with the meat of the conference schedule and 'Betsy feasted on Happy Valley 56-36 and Johnson County 57-33 before facing a team that many considered to be Elizabethton's equal -- Sullivan Central.
   Actually the Cyclones had bested Central once already -- in the championship of the Highlands Classic -- 69-53 as Vince Redd tallied 20 points and five blocked shots in the early season win.
   'Betsy beat the Cougars 67-57 -- their ninth consecutive win over their top conference foe -- dating back to last season when EHS finished 7-0 against Central.
   The Clinton Dragons handed EHS its third defeat of the season, a close 68-67 overtime thriller that saw EHS' record fall to 11-3 overall.
   From then on the Cyclones would lose just one more game -- once again to Clinton -- as they finished the season with a flourish, sweeping Tennessee High among its non-conference foes.
   The Cyclones won six straight conference contests and then the Vikings before facing off with the Cougars once again -- this time in Blountville.
   Once again the Cougars were no match for the Cyclones as Redd tallied 24 points in EHS' 58-49 win, but the team lost senior guard Walter Brown with a torn knee ligament.
   "Walter is the heart and soul of this team," commented Cyclone head coach Tony Hardin afterward. "The guys weren't about to let him down and think he was the reason for losing this game. They just decided there was nothing they could do but to go out there and play."
   Brown attempted a comeback -- playing some in Erwin against the Blue Devils, but finally went down for good in the season-closing loss at Clinton.
   All season long the Cyclones have won with strong defense and consistent scoring from Miller, Redd and Jordan Lambert who each averaged double-figure scoring for the season.
   Bench players like Charles Peters, Chris Vaughn and Nathan Coffman have given coach Hardin good minutes all season, and with the loss of Brown that has meant a lot more down the stretch.
   "Peters has not played like a freshman at all," said Hardin prior to the District tournament. "Vaughn gives us good outside shooting and the rest of the guys on the bench have all stepped up at various stages of the season for us."
   Lester Bailey has done a solid job at point guard in Brown's absence, and with his quickness he gives Betsy another dimension in the trapping defense the Cyclones love to disrupt opponents with.
   EHS notes: A big sendoff for the Cyclones is planned for Tuesday night at Pizza Hut from 6-8 p.m.