Nichols, Clark carry Cyclones to win in 1-AA

Douglas Fritz • Feb 15, 2014 at 11:21 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Tyler Nichols was fully plugged in, and Zeke Clark only needed a little coach-supplied jump start.

When those players both got rolling, it was too much for Sullivan North to overcome. Elizabethton’s dynamic duo combined for 47 points, lifting the Cyclones from the jaws of upset to a 62-51 victory in the District 1-AA basketball quarterfinals at Bayless Gym on Saturday night.

The Cyclones (20-7) advanced to Monday’s first semifinal at 5:30 against Sullivan South, which defeated Happy Valley 65-57.

In Saturday’s nightcap, Johnson County held off determined Sullivan East, 57-53. The Longhorns will play top-seeded Unicoi County on Monday at 8:30 p.m.

Nichols started strong and never really let up. He finished with 26 points and seven rebounds.

“I loved it, and it was totally different tonight,” said Nichols. “I’m glad I got some open looks. And I’m glad I made my free throws because I had been struggling.”

As for Clark, his line of 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals were built mainly in the second half. He got one assist from head coach Lucas Honeycutt just before halftime.

After a steal by North’s Trevor Williams, Clark fouled Williams as he scored. Williams made the free throw to give North a 27-17 lead with 28.8 seconds left.

During the free throw attempt, Honeycutt gave Clark a quick earful about his role as a leader.

“I needed that,” said Clark. “I came out a little shellshocked, not wanting to go home because I’ve had that happen before. I was really glad he got in my face because it woke me up.”

Honeycutt said he holds Clark accountable for a lot of things, even sometimes if it isn’t his fault.

“I’m hard on him, but he does a great job of taking stuff like that,” said Honeycutt.

Clark had just four points at halftime, but started the second half with a pair of assists and really heated up late in the third quarter. In a stretch of 4:04, Clark cut loose for 10 straight points.

The last three of those kicked off a 9-0 run to give Elizabethton a 47-39 lead with 4:22 left in the game.

Guard Alex Jones also played a key role, getting some deflections, playing good defense and keeping some balls alive.

“He was our spark,” said Honeycutt. “In the third quarter, he was a game-changer. Without him, we wouldn’t be moving on.”

North was led by Williams, who finished with 19 points. Grayson Ball had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Nick Bellamy finished with 16 rebounds.

Johnson County 57

Sullivan East 53

Leading for most of the game, the Longhorns saw the Patriots push ahead by two points on Anthony Vanhoy’s 3-pointer with 1:56 left in the game.

However, Dalton Timbs made arguably the game’s biggest shot 25 seconds later. He drove home a 3-ball to give Johnson County a 52-51 lead, and the ‘Horns made their free throws down the stretch.

It was a game of key plays here and there for the Longhorns, along with a standout 21-point, eight-rebound effort from Chase Phillips.

“I’m so proud of the guys,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “We had so many key things happen. And we’ve been waiting for Chase to take over like that for a while.”

J.R. Speed also played a big role in the win, totaling seven points, nine assists, four rebounds and three steals. Timbs finished with 13 points.

East got 17 points from Hunter Owens and 13 from Vanhoy. Gavin Grubb added seven points and seven assists.

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