ELIZABETHTON — It's the time of year where teams that reach the state tournament usually get an unexpected boost.
Elizabethton freshman Haley Burleson took over point-guard duties after an injury to senior starter Sarah Bradley, and the Marosites twins did their usual thing with 38 points in a heart-thumping 66-63 victory over Christian Academy of Knoxville in a Class AA girls basketball sectional at Treadway Gym on Saturday night.
The Lady Cyclones (29-3) earned their second straight trip to the state tournament, and their fifth since 2005. Quarterfinal pairings will be announced today during a blind draw in Murfreesboro.
Everything came down to the final few seconds, and the Lady Cyclones punched their 'Boro ticket with a defensive gem from Kelci Marosites.
After a turnover with seven seconds remaining, CAK put the ball in the sure hands of Anna Hammaker.
The junior guard dribbled toward the top of the key, and backed away a step as Marosites stayed on her tight. When Hammaker released the shot, Marosites got a hand on it to force the air ball as the buzzer sounded.
“I wasn't nervous,” said Marosites. “I just knew I had to defend her on that play. I knew she was going to shoot the ball, and it had to be a three.”
Elizabethton head coach Len Dugger said, “I saw Kelci strapped down, and she wasn't giving any ground. Kelci did a good job containing her.”
As for Burleson, her true value couldn't be measured with statistics. Bradley was the “heart and soul” of the team, said Dugger, but Burleson took the helm late in the third quarter and steered the team through choppy waters.
“I was ready for it,” said Burleson. “I've worked all season, and it was my time. God helped me through it, so all the glory goes to Him. And I can't thank the coaching staff enough for getting me where I am and having confidence in me.”
For Twitter video interviews with the Lady Cyclones' players, follow Douglas Fritz @FritzBlitzzz.
After the game, Dugger said Bradley was diagnosed with only a bruise and could be ready for the state tournament.
Elizabethton jumped out to a big 25-10 lead early in the second quarter, but a poor finish to the first half allowed CAK to pull within 32-27 at the break with an 8-0 run.
Nine times in the second half, the Lady Warriors battled within two points or tied the game. But the Lady Cyclones never relinquished the lead.
Part of the reason was the rock-solid post play of Sarah Robinson and Megan Pietrowski. They combined for 24 points and 22 rebounds with Robinson getting 12 and 13.
“At the beginning of the season, our post play was a little suspect,” said Dugger. “But I think our post game has improved a great deal.”
The key moments of the fourth quarter came when Kayla Marosites hit a bucket to give the Lady Cyclones a 52-50 lead with 5:45 to go. Then Kelci Marosites scored to make it 54-50.
Kayla then followed with a 3-ball, forcing a CAK timeout. Marosites finished with 24 points.
The Cyclones maintained at least a four-point lead until Hammaker hit a free throw and later followed with a bucket to make it 63-62 with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Cyclones made their share of mistakes down the stretch.
“I think CAK did a great job defensively,” said Kayla Marosites. “Yes we did make mistakes, but the next game we just need to not make as many.”
With the Lady Cyclones trying to run out the clock, Robinson caught the ball on the baseline and was driving toward a wide-open layup. Kelsey Naler wrapped her up, and was called for a controversial intentional foul with 20.5 seconds left.
“Everybody in the gym knew we were fouling with intent,” said CAK head coach Steve Denny. “There's a difference between that and fouling intentionally.”
Robinson made both free throws, with the first one bouncing high off the iron and falling through.
CAK fouled Burleson with 17.3 seconds left, and she made one of two tosses to finish out Elizabethton's scoring.
Kelci Marosites totaled 14 points and three assists.
Hammaker finished with 23 points and three steals for CAK (20-14), which got 16 points and 11 rebounds from Kaycee Heitzman. Naler added 11 points and nine rebounds while Brianna Bryant added 10 points.comments powered by Disqus