Cyclones stifle Council for Highlands win

By Allen LaMountain

   BRISTOL Va. -- Elizabethton, employing a full court trap defense, forced the Council High Cobras into 11 first-half turnovers in a 52-39 win in the opening contest of the Highlands Classic played at Bearcat Gym on Thursday evening.
   'Betsy also collected 14 steals in the game with junior guard Lester Bailey leading the way with five, while Jordan Lambert and Vince Redd each had three steals as the Cyclone defense forced Council out of its set-up offense.
   "We aren't a good basketball team just yet," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "We are going to have to live off the defense, and we have a phrase we call 'relentless energy', and that's what we want to bring to the court."
   'Betsy denied the inside game to 6-7 junior post James Nuckles, but freshman guard Kent Goodman got hot from the perimeter to help Council keep it close through three quarters.
   Goodman finished with a game-high 20 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the floor, while hitting on four three-pointers and eight-for-eight from the charity stripe.
   Senior guard B.J. Miller led the Cyclones (2-0) with 17 points, with both Redd and Lambert chipping in a dozen points each.
   "Lambert had a tough first half," Hardin said. "But his first shot of the second half kind of rattled around and went in for him. That got him going. Good shooters like Jordan have that touch that seems to make the ball rattle in for him."
   Neither team found many shots rattling into the nest in the first half as EHS held a 17-15 advantage at the break. 'Betsy shot just seven-of-29 from the floor (23.1 percent) while Council wasn't much better, connecting on five-of-13 (38.5 percent).
   The Cobras (1-1), in fact didn't get a shot off in the first five minutes of the game as Betsy's relentless defensive effort made it difficult to get the ball across the half court line, let alone get off an uncontested shot.
   "I believe at one point we turned the ball over on five straight possessions," said Cobras head coach Rick Goodwin. "At the beginning we weren't looking up the floor for (passing) options. We were just throwing the ball back and forth in the backcourt and not looking down the floor."
   In the battle of the big men in the post, Redd won the points battle over Nuckles 12-6, and in blocked shots by three-to-one, but Nuckles got more boards 11-to-7.
   "They were doing a lot of double and even triple teaming me inside," said Redd. "But we were a lot quicker than they were getting down the floor. We got some open looks by getting down the floor quickly."
   Miller opened the game by hitting a pair of trey's as Betsy took a 10-3 advantage after one period and led at the half despite a 10-0 Council run in the middle of the second period.
   "We worked on our trap all week and it showed because we played with intensity and energy," said Miller. "I thought the way we played defense was the difference. When you play good defense it gets you into a rhythm that carries over to offense."
   In the third period Redd blocked a Nuckles shot and saved the ball from crossing the end line. Redd then uncorked a pass to the mid-court to Lambert whose lay-in gave EHS a 27-19 lead, but a Goodman three cut the Cyclone lead to five with 2:55 remaining in the stanza.
   The third quarter ended with EHS holding a 33-26 lead and Redd opened the fourth period with a two-hand dunk and Miller hit a jumper to extend the Cyclone advantage to 37-26 before Goodman dropped another three-pointer into the nets for Council.
   The Cobras got to within nine points at 40-33 with 3:59 left in regulation, but Lambert swished home a triple to make it a 43-33 contest and both Bailey and Miller hit a pair of free throws to give EHS a comfortable 47-33 lead.
   "I think we shot pretty well on free throws tonight," Hardin said. "You have to make free throws in this game. I think our heart and minds are a little behind right now, but it's just our second game. We have got a lot of work ahead of us."