Spartans dunk Cyclones

Nation's 17th best team draws standing ovation after 105-55 win

By Wes Holtsclaw

   BRISTOL -- The White Station Spartans gave the Ringling Brothers and Barnum-Bailey Circus a run for their money Saturday afternoon at the Arby's Classic.
   While the circus may be "The Greatest Show on Earth," the Spartans put on the 'Greatest Show in East Tennessee' in their 105-55 victory over the Elizabethton Cyclones.
   Once the game was over, many of the fans in attendance from Elizabethton and other places gave the Spartans a standing ovation.
   The Cyclones played a strong team game, but they were simply outmatched against the nation's 19th best team according to USA Today.
   White Station set the Arby's Classic team record with 16 three-pointers, while dunking the ball ten times against Elizabethton.
   "If I was a college coach, I'd just pick them all," said Elizabethton head coach Tony Hardin. "They are a great basketball team and I felt like we competed hard. They shot the lights out of it."
   "They are the top AAA team in the state and this will make us better."
   Each of their players are college prospects according to legendary coach Terry Tippett. The Spartans were led by a 34-point performance from Courtney Pigram, who made seven three-pointers, one shy of the individual tournament record.
   The fans at Viking Hall had Pigram brought back into the game after he was taken out in the fourth quarter to give him a try for the record.
   It wasn't anything new for Pigram, who made eight treys in a game earlier this season.
   "It wasn't nothing new," said the six-foot senior guard, who even showcased his dunking ability. "The shots were falling and we were on. The crowd was great here. I've never had that happen before, but this is how we play all the time."
   "We had better defense last year," said Tippett of last year's Spartan club, who won the state in AAA and finished tenth in the final USA Today poll.
   "This team may shoot better. We don't have as much depth and we're working on that. This year's starters were last year's bench. I was afraid of the situation at the end because Tony's a great guy and Elizabethton's got a great group of kids, we hated to score that many."
   Elizabethton had a strong effort in the second half, after getting outscored 37-7 in the second quarter, including six straight dunks.
   The Cyclones' younger players all stepped up and made buckets when they had the chance and it was a good team experience according to Hardin.
   "Our bench came in and made good plays," Hardin said. "But if you're in Memphis and you can play basketball, go there. I think we played the best and this will only make us better."
   It was unreal according to Cyclone Bradley Brown, who had eight points along with Weston Jeffers.
   "They were a great opponent," Brown said. "Everybody got in and did stuff. We worked hard and played tough, but they got better. It was a lot of fun and we didn't want to lose, but you expect that kind of play out of good teams over here."
   Ben Hardin led Elizabethton with 12 points off of four big trifectas in the fourth quarter.
   The Spartans only outscored the Cyclones 47-38 in the second half due to Elizabethton's strong effort.
   Adam Turley had six points for Elizabethton, while Derrick Nave (five points), Troop Harris (four points) and J.C. Atkinson (four points) wound out the team's top scorers.
   Four other players scored two points.
   Senior guard and ETSU prospect Reiley Ervin dropped 19 for the Spartans, J.P. Prince totaled 13, including an alley-oop reverse dunk off the backboard from Colin Cunningham.
   Taylor Schatl downed nine, while Cunningham tallied eight. Each of the other six White Station players all scored in the game.
   "It was a great game and a great crowd," Ervin said. "I couldn't believe it when the crowd got behind us. We've got ten guys that could all be in the starting five. The coach puts us and in and out and we're an unselfish team."
   It will be hard for any team to beat them in the tournament.
   Elizabethton faces Dobyns-Bennett at 12 p.m. on Monday.
   Friday's First Round Play-In Game
   The Elizabethton Cyclones kept it a game and held the visiting Bahamas National Champion to two points in the fourth quarter en route to a 44-36 win in the Classic's first game on Friday.
   "We've always lived and died by our defense," said Hardin. "They didn't make a field goal in the fourth quarter. It was an ugly game offensively for us."
   "I knew if we ever got in a rhythm, we needed to try and keep them confused. We kept them confused and it is a good win for our program."
   Tabernacle took a two-point advantage into the locker room at halftime after the game was tied at ten apiece in the first quarter. Elizabethton made it a one point game in the third quarter before scoring 11 in the final frame.
   Derrick Nave led Elizabethton with 11 points, while Charles Peters and Chris Vaughn tallied nine. Adam Turley added six.
   "Our defense messed them up and they didn't get used to our matchup," said Peters. "We came out hard and knew they would be pretty tough. It was intense."
   Said Turley: "In the fourth quarter, we decided we would come out and play. (Brandon) Blevins had some big steals and it opened up shots for us."
   Vaughn hit two three-pointers in the game for Elizabethton.
   Cordero Seymour led Tabernacle with 13 points, while teammate Keno Smith added ten. Smith and Seymour fouled out late in the fourth quarter.