Successful starts for   'Lander, EHS girls

Photo by Danny Davis
Elizabethton’s Brianne Gouge harrasses Melissa Miller of West Greene.

  The Valley Forge Auction Lady Warrior Thanksgiving Classic got underway on Wednesday at Happy Valley's Bayless Gym, where fans saw action-packed hardwood games from some of the best girls high school basketball teams in the area. In the evening's two finals games, two Carter County schools went home with victories.
  Elizabethton's Lady Cyclones got the best of the West Greene Lady Buffs, 45-31, but fans who didn't stick around for the nightcap may have missed the most hard-fought game of the tournament when 56 fouls and two technicals don't begin to tell the story of the Cloudland Lady Highlanders' 78-71 victory over the Tennessee High Lady Vikings.
  The first quarter was dominated by the Lady Highlanders, and they had the Lady Vikes down by 15 to start the second quarter, 20-5, by playing smart defense and making all of their baskets count.
  Then the Lady Vikes began a full-court press that threw the Lady 'Landers for a loop, and with three upperclassmen on the bench, the 'Landers felt the pressure and got the whistle 12 times in the second quarter alone to give up 11 points to the Lady Vikes on the free-throw line.
  Head coach Matt Birchfield was beside himself with only two fouls called on Vikes in the quarter, and bought himself a technical call.
  Both teams went to the locker room with the Vikes just four points away from taking the lead away.
  "In halftime, coach told us to calm down," said Cloudland's Jessica Lunsford said. "We just needed to chill out a little bit because we were nervous and stuff. It is early in the year and we have younger girls playing, with Santana (Clawson) and Stasha (Saults) in there when they were doing the press and they weren't used to it. We were getting uptight and turning it over. Then we would foul. That was even worse because they were catching up to us. We got together and overcame it, and that is the important part."
  Both teams came back equally hard, with both teams banking in 16 points in the third for a still four-point lead, helped by a second technical. This time, Vike Hannah Simpson received the call, sending Lunsford to the line.
  The fourth quarter saw the Lady Vikings in desperation this time, sending the Lady 'Landers to the line 13 times, helping preserve the win.
  The Lady 'Landers were led by Jessica Mathies, who put down nine field goals and scored four at the line for 22 points. Lunsford tallied 18 points, seven of which were at the line and a shot from the outside. Heather Banner knocked in 12 points. Clawson and Jessica McGuire were both good for 10.
  "I was proud of them," Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said of his players. "They hung in there with class. We overcame adversity and the technical was bad on my part but they overcame a lot of stuff and hung in there for the win. I was tickled to death. The kids stepped up and played well.
  "We had some big buckets out of a lot of kids. Mathies I thought stepped up for us and played well tonight. Lunsford really played some super, super ball for us tonight. They were really denying her the ball and we couldn't get the ball back to her. She stepped up and played big.
  "This is the best team performance I have had in a long time out of everybody. Their press hurt us. They got back into the game with the press. We finally fought back, took the lead back and won it at the free-throw line. I had some good play out of Santana, who came off the bench and gave us some good minutes and made some good free throws. It was just a great team effort."
  Tennessee High was lead by Lauren Cole with 17 and Courtney Reed with 16. Danielle Sharret put down two shots from the outside, two on the inside and three from the line.
  Elizabethton 45
  West Greene 31
  The Lady Cyclones had a slow start in their first game of the season. Although they held the lead the entire game, expectations have been high for the squad. Elizabethton could have taken the game away at the start, but failed to capitalize on rebounds and was not taking good shots until after the half.
  The Lady Cyclone defense was the highlight of the game, allowing only six shots in movement the first half, but three of those shots came from Grace Swatzell, who banked in three from the outside for the Lady Buffs' only points in the first quarter.
  The score was 15-14 in the second, but Victoria Hopson and Cameron Crapps both made turnovers and went down court on the fast break for a 19-14 lead, but a last-second two by West Greene made it a three-point game at the half.
  "I don't know why we started off so slow in the first," Lady Cyclone Rikki Baughman said. "We went back there into the back and [Coach Wilson] told us that we were going to have to pick it up some or we were going to lose this game, and I think that changed it for us. We just all started playing a whole lot harder. I think a lot of it was first-game jitters because a lot of us were nervous before the game. I think that after we started playing, we felt a lot better. I think we could play a lot better on offense and defense but I think that we did pretty good."
  Both teams went to the line to open up the third, but two lay-ins by Baughman brought the score to 25-18. The score was 29-21 going into the fourth.
  Twelve fouls by both teams had the score going up mostly at the free-throw line, but a technical on West Greene for a flagrant foul and a three-pointer from Cyclone Victoria Hopson maintained the lead and 'Betsy took home their first victory.
  "We didn't get Rikki involved very much in the first half," Elizabethton head coach Mike Wilson said. "I thought that Valnessha, Victoria and Cameron did a good job of getting people involved in the second half. We just didn't get Rikki enough touches in the first. We talked about that and I thing the kids did a really good job of responding to that.
  "The second half was better. I think that we were about to get stale and we needed to play. We have been practicing and scrimmaging a lot but you can only practice so long. Tonight helped us get our play and getting the first one out of the way and move on."
  Baughman topped the Lady Cyclones with 16 points, going 4-of-8 at the line. Crapps tallied 12 points, all of which were at the board. Hopson put in three at the board and one shot from the outside for nine.
  West Greene was lead by Swatzell's three shots from the outside and Melissa Miller had two field goals and went 2-for-2 at the line.