ELIZABETHTON — Even with two blowout wins over Sullivan North in the regular season, Elizabethton didn’t expect to end Chase Arnold’s career without a major fight.
That’s what it took — and that’s what happened to the Raiders’ 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound standout — as the Cyclones earned a rock-tough 67-58 victory Tuesday night in the Region 1-AA basketball semifinals at Treadway Gym.
“That’s what I expected, a down-to-the-wire game,” said Cyclones’ first-year head coach Lucas Honeycutt, whose team defeated North by 30 and 26 points in the regular season but watched the Raiders morph into a much tougher team during the postseason. “North was night and day from the first two times we played them.”
Improving to 25-6, the Cyclones earned their first sectional berth since 2003. They will also play in Thursday’s championship game against Sullivan East (26-7) at 7 p.m.
“This is just a whole new feeling,” said Elizabethton’s Will Robinson, who authored a double-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and also added three assists. “To get to experience this game, in this atmosphere, just feels great.”
As for the East, the Patriots rained down 14 3-pointers on Chuckey-Doak — and needed every one of them to hold off the determined Black Knights in a 70-68 thriller.
The East-Elizabethton game will be a rematch of the District 1-AA final, where the Cyclones earned a 55-46 victory.
Trailing 17-13 early in the second quarter, Elizabethton took control against Sullivan North with a 15-2 run to halftime. The Cyclones stayed in command, building a 43-28 edge midway through the third quarter.
However, fouls started piling up as Elizabethton struggled to guard Arnold and post teammate Grayson Ball. North went on an 18-4 run to close within one point, 47-46, with just under six minutes left in the game.
However, Elizabethton’s Michael Wagner hit a big basket with five minutes left. And Robinson steered home the biggest shot of the game, a 3-bomb from the trey corner that made it 55-49 with 2:02 remaining.
“That was one that gave us a little relief and a little space,” said Honeycutt. “But North made a run after that. With Arnold on the floor, no lead is safe.”
Trailing 60-52 with a minute to go, Ball hammered home a 3-ball. The Cyclones turned it over, and Ball scored on a short bank shot to make it 60-57.
After Alex Baughman made one of two free throws, Arnold responded with one of two from the line.
The Raiders fouled Hunter Combs on the in-bounds pass, and Combs walked to the line and drained both tosses to make it 63-58.
“We had a kid who had been sitting on the bench come in and make two huge free throws,” said Honeycutt. “After the game, I told the guys I could go around the room and name a big play for everyone who went in the game.”
The Cyclones won despite losing Zach Norwood to fouls with 3:30 left in a two-point game.
Zeke Clark led the Cyclones with 14 points, and also added five rebounds and five assists.
“We came out and gave everything we had on the offensive and defensive ends and that led us down the stretch,” said Clark.
Wagner totaled 12 points and seven rebounds for the Cyclones while Baughman had nine points.
Arnold finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds for North (16-15) while Ball totaled 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Sullivan East 70
Despite a 30-point performance from Black Knights’ guard Cory Swinney, the Patriots survived and advanced.
After trailing for almost three quarters, East led throughout the fourth quarter until Josh Lamb tied it at 62-62 with 3:51 remaining. Swinney then swished a 3-ball to give Doak a 65-64 lead.
David Casaday made a free throw, and Austin Fleenor knocked the bottom out of the basket for his sixth trey bomb, making it 68-65 with 1:47 left.
However, Birkir Vidisson went 3-deep to tie the game with 15 seconds left. After a foul with 9.5 seconds left, Casaday took the in-bounds pass and got to the rim for the bucket and was fouled.
However, Casaday missed the free throw. Colton Chaffin stole the ball for East with 1.8 seconds left and was fouled.
Chaffin missed the one-and-one opportunity, and Doak point guard Garrett Johnson launched a guarded 65-footer at the buzzer. The ball was right on line, but came up just short, hitting the middle of the net.
“Chuckey-Doak was an inspired basketball team,” said East head coach John Dyer. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if that last shot went in.”
Fleenor led East with 20 points. Casaday, who hit four treys, finished with 19 points and seven assists. Jonathan King added 13 points and 12 rebounds while Jordan James had 10 points, five assists and four steals.
Swinney added five rebounds and three assists to his 30 points. Vidisson had 13 points. Garrett Johnson totaled seven points, eight assists, four rebounds and three steals.
“It really hurts to lose, but our guys couldn’t have given any more effort,” said Doak head coach Sam Broyles.
The Black Knights (20-11) did not attempt a free throw in the game while East was just 4 of 7 from the line.