Cyclones win Arby's opener

By Ivan Sanders

    Before the opening tip-off in the 2002 edition of the Arby's Classic, the Elizabethton Cyclones knew there would be two different opponents to overcome if they were to have the opportunity to stay in the winner's bracket.
   One was a tough and physical Chattanooga Brainerd team and the other was the emotional roller coaster of being without one of their key players in Walter Brown, who was states away in Michigan tending to his ill mother.
    The Cyclones proved that they are a team that can stand toe-to-toe with any obstacle as they caged the Panthers by a score of 69-55 at Bristol's Viking Hall before an estimated 6000 fans. They did miss Brown's services on the night, but the team as a whole stepped it up a notch to compensate for the absence of the speedy Cyclone point guard.
    "This is a tight team, they're very close," stated Cyclone head coach Tony Hardin after the contest. "We knew we had to step up and play smart basketball and the guys just did a great job of doing that."
    Elizabethton came out in the opening quarter riding the hot hand of senior B.J. Miller who could have shot from the top of Viking Hall and made it on this night as Miller pumped in eight points in the quarter. Miller teamed up with Lester Bailey to take care of the ball handling duties as well to help the Cyclones ease out to a slim 14-12 margin after the end of the first eight minutes of action.
    Not to be outdone, the Panthers sneaky point-man,Cedric Dozier, kept his team close by making nifty steals and adding six in the opening period.
    Entering the second quarter of action, things began to heat up as Miller kept his hot streak in tact as well as he scored eight more to bring his halftime tally to 16 points in 16 minutes. Bailey got into the act as well as he rained in two treys in the quarter to go along with a field goal to add eight as well.
    Meanwhile, Dozier strutted his stuff also by hitting for 12 in the period to actually nudge his squad ahead 36-35 at intermission. Dozier received some help from teammate Randon Floyd who netted six in the quarter in helping the Panthers take their first lead of the contest.
    "Hitting those first shots really helped my confidence since I haven't been shooting that well," stated Bailey. "I felt like I could throw up anything and it would fall in tonight and I knew if our defense kept playing hard, the offense was going to be there."
    After the break, the Panthers began seeing Redd--Vince Redd that is. With the Cyclones trailing 40-37, Redd took a pass from Bailey, slid by two opposing defenders, and threw down a tomahawk slam that shook the rafters and brought the Cyclones to life as they soon turned the deficit into a 50-43 advantage at the end of three.
    Miller tallied six more in the third quarter and Redd added five. A defensive change by Coach Hardin at the half saw Jordan Lambert man up on Dozier and slam the door in the face of the Brainerd guard who managed only one point in the period.
    The Cyclone defense, as a unit, held the Panthers to a total of only seven points in the third after giving up 36 in the first two quarters.Brad Holtsclaw and Charles Peters gave a yeomen's effort in helping protect Redd from picking up any more fouls on the inside boards in the quarter.
    Quarter four saw more of the same from the Cyclones as Miller buried another trey and gave a shooting clinic at the line in tallying eight more in the final stanza. Redd was a monster under the basket as he constantly took the Panthers to school, drawing several hard fouls from the Brainerd defenders and actually helping to disqualify Dozier and Andre Mapp from the contest with five fouls each.
    Again the Cyclone defense was rock solid, as they limited a talented Brainerd team to only 12 points in the final quarter. With the game in hand, Hardin unloaded his bench to close out the final ticks of the clock to take the win.
    Miller paced the Cyclones with a game-high 30 points followed by Bailey and Redd with 15 points each. Dozier finished with 21 for Brainerd, with 18 of those coming in the first half. Reginald Jackson added 12 while teammate Floyd chipped in with 10.
    Said Miller of his performance: "I just want to come out here every game and do what my team needs me to do for us to win. They were letting Lester and I shoot the outside shot and when they stepped out, that freed up Vince in the middle. It really felt good out there tonight because when your shot goes in a couple of times, you start to get a good feeling about yourself and your team. I thought that Jordan did a fantastic job on Dozier as well in the second half and that helped."
    The Cyclones will now face off against another tough opponent in the Wildcats of Wheeler, Ga., a 77-39 winner over Daniel Boone in the day's nightcap. The Cyclones take the court at 6:30 PM on Saturday at Viking Hall.