EHS opens season on winning note

By Wes Holtsclaw

   GREENEVILLE -- Up 17 in the third quarter, it appeared as though the Elizabethton Cyclones were sitting pretty and on their way to a victory.
   That was too quick of a judgment.
   The South Greene Rebels outscored Elizabethton 22-13 in the fourth quarter, cutting the Cyclones' lead to four.
   Then came some clutch buckets from Bradley Brown and Charles Peters, guiding the Orange & Black to a 60-54 victory at Hal Henard Gymnasium in the first round of the Landair Invitational Tip-Off Tournament.
   "We're not in great shape yet and we played 10 guys tonight, and I think that was great," said Elizabethton coach Tony Hardin. "We're going to become a great team, but we're not yet.
   "We are learning to play and us up 17...we don't know how to play with a lead yet. But I think we played well at the end. We had Charles Peters and Bradley Brown make some big free throws to keep it spread out. I'm very tickled with the effort, we played hard."
   Elizabethton led by 10 after the first period, then the Rebels closed that gap to six (29-23) at the end of the opening half.
   The Cyclones made some key adjustments in the locker room, blasting out on a 13-3 run at the beginning of the third quarter.
   Defensively, mixing it up at that point made the difference in the game.
   "Our match-up gives people trouble," the coach said. "They just had a real hard time attacking. We made little halftime adjustment and I thought we did an awesome job in the third quarter and really shut them down."
   Elizabethton outrebounded South Greene 33-22, with 11 of those coming from sophomore Peters.
   Lester Bailey and Brandon Blevins made it tough on the Rebel guards, with five and three steals, respectively.
   "We were being consistent and solid on the ball," said Bailey, who also led the Cyclones with 16 points. "We came out in the second half, not letting them penetrate. We came out hard and played good, solid defense."
   "We mixed it up a lot with zone and man and that made them off," Peters added. "That was a big decision our coach made, and it got them confused."
   The Cyclones bounced out on top in the first quarter behind some solid inside work from Adam Turley and Peters.
   Elizabethton held South Greene defensively early in the frame, but the Rebels put up a charge behind Michael Shelton and Cody Caraway.
   Brandon Rohr and Bruce Wright led South Greene back with a strong defense in the second quarter.
   The Rebels outscored Elizabethton 14-10 in the period where the Cyclones had a hard time adjusting. That soon changed.
   With their defense nixing any South Greene run, Bailey and Blevins keyed a big Elizabethton lead at the beginning of the third quarter. The team went on a 13-3 run with Chris Vaughn dropping some additional buckets.
   Jonathan Laing, Derrick Nave and Brown helped out defensively on the boards during the frame, with the Cyclones holding a 15-point lead into the final stanza.
   South Greene looked like a different team when the fourth quarter opened.
   Wright and Rohr opened up with quick buckets for the Rebels, while Elizabethton held its own behind Bailey.
   However, South Greene turned the lead down to five during a stretch in the middle of the quarter behind a trio of buckets from Tyler Sauceman and a bevy of free throws.
   But the Rebels missed some clutch shots late with a chance to do some damage. Fouling allowed Brown and Peters to drop shots from the charity stripe to preserve a win for the Cyclones.
   The unit appeared fatigued in the fourth quarter, mostly due to the transition from football, but members of the squad noted that will change given some work.
   "It's different," said Peters. "You don't get the break in between like you do in football. But we'll get in better shape."
   Sauceman led the game with 17 points for the Rebels, while teammate Cody Caraway had 15.
   Peters added 11 for Elizabethton, which got solid offense from Vaughn (9 points), Blevins (8 points) and Turley (7 points)
   Elizabethton will meet the victor of tonight's Greeneville and Lenoir City battle on Friday in the winner's bracket round of the tournament.