MURFREESBORO — After Elizabethton’s girls spent a decade sniffing, knocking and flat-out pounding at the door, Kayla Marosites simply kicked it in.
The unflappable Elizabethton freshman exploded onto the state tournament scene with 30 points, leading the Lady Cyclones to a 61-48 revenge victory over Martin Westview in a state quarterfinal basketball contest Thursday at Murphy Center.
It was the first-ever Class AA state tournament victory for Elizabethton, which had made three previous state appearances and reached at the least the sectional round eight times in 11 years.
And this one had Marosites written all over it.
“I just wanted to step it up for the team,” said Marosites, who was 11 of 19 from the field, 4 of 7 from 3-point land, grabbed nine rebounds, and plucked away two steals in a exhaustive performance. “I didn’t want the season the be over. I was a little nervous to begin with, but this meant a lot to me.”
Elizabethton improved to 29-4 and moved into today’s semifinals against defending state champion Nashville Christ Presbyterian Academy at 5 p.m. (EST). CPA (28-7) eliminated Livingston Academy with a 62-40 decision.
Lady Cyclones’ head coach Len Dugger, who earned his first state tournament victory since the boys reached the Class AAA semifinals 30 years ago, said Kayla and her twin sister Kelci just come and play basketball.
“I don’t think they even think about it,” said Dugger. “It was just like coming to camp. And you have to give credit to Whitney (Roberts), Reazyn (DeMoss) and Sarah (Bradley) for looking for them. They believe in those girls.”
Elizabethton held a one-point lead at halftime, 27-26, before Kayla Marosites went on an stunning run. She scored the first 15 points of the second half for the Lady Cyclones before Whitney Roberts got a basket with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter.
During that out-of-sight Marosites stretch, Westview managed only five points.
Lady Chargers head coach Sean Stephenson said Marosites hurt his team in numerous ways.
“She got a lot of second-chance points for them,” said Stephenson. “She made a few outside shots, but she was really active driving inside and creating stuff.”
With Elizabethton building a 42-31 lead, the Lady Cyclones still needed a little something more. That’s when Roberts stepped up. She scored a bucket to make it 44-31, and later added a stick-back off a 3-point miss to restore a 12-point lead after Westview had cut it to 10 with a three-point play.
“I thought that was a dagger right there,” said Dugger. “They could have gotten it to single digits, but Whitney went after the ball, powered up and got the basket.”
Roberts finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. DeMoss played a key role with five points, six rebounds and three assists.
Also coming up with an important performance was Melinda Perry, yet another freshman. She got extended minutes in the first half, and knocked down three 3-pointers to finish with nine points. Perry had totaled just 17 points on the varsity all season.
“There were two factors to those buckets,” said Dugger. “One was it kept us motivated. And Westview was playing with confidence when she hit those shots.”
Two of Perry’s shots gave the Cyclones the lead, including the last one with 32 seconds left in the first half.
Elizabethton did a good job of attacking Westview’s hybrid 1-3-1 zone. The Cyclones were fairly patient and got a lot of good looks.
“It was just ball movement,” said Marosites. “We would put it inside and kick it back out.”
Dugger, who brought two other girls teams to the state and lost by two points (2009) and six points (2011), said this victory meant a lot.
“This is so sweet,” said Dugger. “I just thank God. I just wanted the clock to run so fast there at the end.
“The kids kept making plays and just kept playing. We made play after play at both ends of the floor. They did not want to be denied.”
And the players continue to have that attitude, said Roberts.
“We are definitely not done,” she said. “We’ve got to play like we’ve been playing and not get frustrated. We’ve got to play as a team and believe in each other.”
Teddy Vincent did her level best to keep the Lady Chargers within shouting distance. She finished with 24 points, five rebounds and three steals.