Cyclones put scare in No. 1 Roadrunners

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   MURFREESBORO -- All hail the underdog, as the Elizabethton Cyclones came to Murfreesboro looking to secure the school's first-ever state title. The bid fell short but not without a fight as 'Betsy dropped a 49-42 decision to highly-touted Memphis Ridgeway in a Wednesday night quarterfinal game.
   With a focus on defensive effort, the Cyclones came into the contest missing point guard Walter Brown due to ACL problems, but coach Tony Hardin was pleased with his team's performance.
   "We came down to show everyone we were good enough," Hardin said. "We went out and played all heart."
   Both teams struggled early while trying to find a rhythm offensively.
   Two teams that look somewhat similar on paper looked very different in motion as early miscues put the Cyclones down by an 8-2 score.
   Hardin called timeout with 2:42 remaining in the first period. After the break, Elizabethton responded with solid defensive effort as postman Vince Redd delivered a big rejection.
   Despite the defensive improvement, the Cyclone offense could not find the twine, and a three-point basket by Ridgeway's Michael Davis put the Cyclones down by eight points heading to the second period.
   Better movement without the basketball finally sparked the offense for Elizabethton early in the second period. Combined with better rebounding, the Cyclones quickly pulled to within three points.
   With Lester Bailey and B.J. Miller distributing the basketball, Redd began to turn up the pressure on the offensive glass, adding a huge alley-oop slam to rouse the Cyclone faithful.
   The perimeter game picked up as well for the Cyclones as Miller, along with Jordan Lambert, connected from long distance.
   Bailey tied the contest with just over two minutes to play with a running jumper from the top of the key.
   With a solid second-quarter performance the Cyclones took a slim 23-22 lead into halftime as momentum began to build.
   With slight advantages from behind the arc, and a strong performance defensively left hopes high for the second half. Meanwhile, Roadrunner skipper Wesley Henning was hoping to break down the E-town D.
   "The were able to set in their scheme and force us to kick out," Henning said. "We tried to move it around and we got some easy baskets in the end."
   The two powerhouse offenses continued to play conservative early in the third quarter. A Ridgeway timeout with 4:15 left in the quarter brought the pace to a standstill halfway through the period.
   While Elizabethton pressed the half-court battle, the Cyclones continued to play physically in the paint. With Redd on the verge of foul trouble, along with Bailey, the Cyclones fell behind in the final seconds of the third period 32-31.
   A controversial blocking foul, along with a three point basket from Yaul Banks, moved the lead to five. However Miller would answer with a trey of his own to close within a pair.
   Ridgeway called for timeout with 5:32 remaining in the contest hoping to build on a shaky two-point advantage.
   Ridgeway looked to take control following the timeout. A quick basket and a turnover found the Roadrunners in transition and threatening to capture the momentum.
   Redd silenced the surging Roadrunners by delivering another devastating block. Nearing the midway point of the quarter, Elizabethton trailed by six.
   Redd picked up his fourth personal foul with just over four minutes to play, and things were looking down for the Cyclones.
   Elizabethton responded with a 4-0 spurt, then Hardin took a T.O. to talk things over, and draw up the defense. Trailing 39-42, the Cyclones came out looking to shut down the Roadrunner penetration.
   With the physical play continuing to build, Redd gained a trip to the foul line with 49.7 remaining in the contest. Hitting both ends of the 1-and-1 pulled the Cyclones within one.
   Another quick bucket along with a steal and another two, put the Cyclones in perilous straits.
   The deficit would be insurmountable, and the Cyclones would close out the season with a disappointing 49-42 loss.
   After the contest, Miller commented on the team and the effort they displayed.
   "We had a lot of shots go in-and-out," he said. "We played great defense and we expected to win. We gave a lot of heart, and gave a lot of effort."
   Despite heading home after the first round, Hardin summed up the contest by paying tribute to his team.
   "I thought we played extremely well," Hardin said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win when nobody gave us a chance."