ELIZABETHTON — There’s nothing Elizabethton can do about losing to Sullivan East earlier in the season.
Thursday night at Treadway Gym, the Cyclones made sure it didn’t happen again.
Getting standout efforts from Tyler Nichols and Zeke Clark, the Cyclones pulled away for a 49-34 victory over the Patriots in a Three Rivers Conference basketball contest.
Elizabethton improved to 7-2 in league play and 17-6 overall while the Patriots fell to 3-7, 10-15.
Nichols had 19 points and eight rebounds. Clark added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Those totals were important as the Cyclones wanted to erase a December loss that currently keeps them out of a first-place tie in the league.
“We wanted to get them back,” said Clark. “We didn’t feel like they should have beaten us the first time. They put us in a bad spot in the conference. We wanted to get back to where we should be.”
Nichols scored quite a few of his points at or near the rim.
“He gets buckets from places most kids can’t score them from,” said Elizabethton head coach Lucas Honeycutt.
It didn’t look like it was going to be easy as both teams struggled to get into an offensive groove in the first half. The Cyclones took a 24-14 lead into the locker room.
Nichols helped keep the Patriots an arm’s length away in the third quarter, and then really put them in a bad spot in the fourth quarter with a head-of-the-key three to make it 39-26 with six minutes remaining.
The feed on that shot came from Clark, who was in the middle of the lane under the basket. Clark has been helping the Cyclones get better as a team by finding ways to make his teammates better.
“As the season has gone on we’re getting better at scoring as a team,” said Clark. “Bo (Pless) has stepped up as a scorer, and that has made things easier.”
Honeycutt said the coaches challenged Clark to get better on the defensive end of the court.
“He has improved his defense every game,” said Honeycutt. “Sometimes he finds himself pressing on the offensive end, but tonight he backed off, got under control, and got some good looks.”
Conley Bowers also had a big impact on the game, totaling six blocked shots. Austin Cornett added four assists.
East didn’t have a player reach double figures in scoring. Hunter Owens and Hunter Davis led the way with eight points apiece.
Now the Cyclones turn their attention to a treacherous three-game stretch. They play at Johnson County tonight, at Unicoi County on Monday, and then play host to Sullivan South on Tuesday.
“Everybody has to play everybody at the top of the league,” said Honeycutt. “Everybody is sitting there waiting to see what will happen. It will be intense.”