MURFREESBORO — After reaching the state tournament for the second straight year, and fourth time in six seasons, Elizabethton head coach Len Dugger asked a simple question.
“Why not us?” said Dugger in reference to winning a Class AA state basketball title.
The Lady Cyclones (29-3) open play in the girls state tournament today with a quarterfinal matchup against Livingston Academy (25-11). Tipoff is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. (EST) at Murphy Center.
Dugger led the Lady Cyclones to the state in 2009, where they lost a heartbreaker to Martin Westview. They returned in 2011, falling a few points short against Cannon County.
Last year, Elizabethton broke through with its first state tournament win since the 1920s, beating Westview in the quarterfinals before falling four points short to eventual champion Christ Presbyterian Academy in the semifinals.
Livingston reached the quarterfinals last year, losing by 22 points to CPA. The Lady Wildcats made it to the semifinals in 2012, falling 18 points short against CPA. They played for the title in 2009, losing to Gibson County by 20.
The Lady Wildcats won state titles in 1990, 1994, 1999 and 2004.
If Elizabethton is going to reach such heights, Dugger said it starts with an approach of getting the job done.
“They just go about their business,” said Dugger. “They feel confident, and they just go out and play. As far as they are concerned, they're supposed to play another game (today).”
Livingston started the season at 4-7, but has won 21 of its last 25 games. The Lady Wildcats are led by 5-9 senior post Marlee Sells, who averages 13 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.
Wing Rachel Reeder (5-6, Sr.) and forward Kailey Winningham (5-8, Jr.) each average just under 10 points per game with Winningham adding five rebounds per contest.
Sells, Tatum Dillon and Kendall Robbins each average close to one 3-pointer per game.
Dugger said the Lady Wildcats do the little things well.
“They are well-coached,” said Dugger. “They set good screens, and they do a really good job in the halfcourt. And they play 12 kids.”
Elizabethton, which has won 17 straight games, counters with 5-9 sophomores Kayla Marosites (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals per game) and Kelci Marosites (14 points per game).
Juniors Sarah Robinson and Megan Pietrowski, who combined for 24 and 22 rebounds in the sectional victory over Christian Academy of Knoxville, provide the post punch.
Senior point guard Sarah Bradley, who was injured against CAK, has been steady all season on both ends of the court. Dugger said Bradley will play against Livingston.
“She's raring to go,” said Dugger.
Sophomore Emily Kiser has given Elizabethton sparks off the bench this season.
Defensively, the Cyclones have been tough. They have held 14 of their last 17 opponents under 46 points. During that stretch, Elizabethton has averaged 72.4 points per game on offense.
Overall, it wasn't necessarily a team that had state tournament written all over it before the season started. But the Lady Cyclones have gotten better and better throughout the season.
“We have some talent,” said Dugger. “After the first of the year, we've done a good job complementing one another and continuing to grow as a unit.
“They love to play, and they love to compete. And it's still a young group.”
Notes: Elizabethton's state tournament record since its first-ever Class AA appearance in 2005 is 1-4. The Lady Cyclones won several games in the 1920s, before the formation of the TSSAA. …
The winner of Elizabethton versus Livingston Academy will play the winner of the first quarterfinal between Martin Luther King (29-2) and Martin Westview (24-12). The semifinal contest is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Saturday's Class AA championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. …
Over the last two seasons, Elizabethton has a record of 56-8. …
This is Dugger's fifth appearance in the state tournament. He guided the Cyclones' boys team to the Class AAA state semifinals in 1983.comments powered by Disqus