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ELIZABETHTON — Two important things were accomplished by Elizabethton’s arrest of Sullivan South on Tuesday night.
First, the Cyclones proved they have to be considered in the same breath with Unicoi County and South for the favorite role in the District 1-AA basketball tournament.
Second, Elizabethton opened the door for Unicoi County to have a shot at a tie for the Three Rivers Conference title, and top seeding for the district.
The Cyclones easily handled Sullivan South 59-47, getting a big-time game from Zeke Clark.
It was just the second league loss for the Rebels, who finished at 10-2. Elizabethton ended with a 9-3 mark.
Unicoi (9-2) plays at Johnson County on Friday, and owns the tiebreaker over the Rebels.
Clark was like a heavy-handed sheriff in this one. The senior guard finished with a not-in-my-jurisdiction total of 17 points, eight assists, four rebounds, three steals and plenty of handcuff defense on South point guard Evan Headrick.
“When Zeke plays defense, I think we’re a different team,” said Cyclones’ head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “He really buckled down on defense, and did a good job on Headrick. He cut down on penetration.”
As a result, South’s interior game was ineffective. Christian Comsa scored four of his team’s first seven points, but finished with just nine. Will Blair and Dylan Wieger had just two points apiece.
Clark’s deputy for the evening was the trustworthy gunslinger Tyler Nichols. The junior guard, noted for airborne rim patrol, totaled 16 points.
Bo Pless was the constable, battling inside for nine points and seven rebounds.
With some key contributions from Conley Bowers and Austin Cornett, the Cyclones’ offense whirred like a souped-up Crown Victoria — much different from the 1970 AMC Gremlin they seemed to be driving in Monday’s blowout loss to Unicoi County.
“We didn’t let South take us out of our offense like Unicoi County,” said Clark. “Unicoi did a good job of bothering us.
“Ball movement helped a lot tonight. We moved the ball and got people open looks.”
South jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but Elizabethton roared back with a 19-5 rush. The Cyclones scored the last 10 points of the first half to take a 32-19 lead into the locker room.
South stayed within striking distance in the second half before the Cyclones went on a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to open a 53-33 lead.
Honeycutt said his team has
been a little up and down at times this season, but tonight was the good side of things.
“We got after a real good team tonight,” said Honeycutt. “Effort was the big key from last night to tonight. We saw the team we’ve been accustomed to seeing tonight. We stayed calm and didn’t panic.”
Mickey Winkle was pretty much the lone bright spot for the Rebels. He finished with 19 points, knocking down four trey balls.