MURFREESBORO — Another 16-point lead drifted off into the sunset, but once again Elizabethton steadied itself in the storm.
And the Lady Cyclones will play for a girls state basketball championship for the first time in school history.
Sarah Bradley knocked down six straight free throws in the final 1:22, and Kelci Marosites and Kayla Marosites also came up big down the stretch in a 67-61 win over Martin Westview in the Class AA state semifinals Friday night at Murphy Center.
“We just knew in our minds we can’t give up,” said Bradley. “We gave it our all. This team has more heart than any team. We’re in it to win it.”
Elizabethton, 31-3 and a winner in 19 straight games, will play Knox Fulton in tonight’s championship at 7 o’clock (EST). Fulton (30-5) earned its spot with a 45-41 overtime win over Charlotte Creek Wood.
Dugger said the win is a tribute to the kids.
“I’m just so happy for them,” he said. “It’s just an amazing feeling. It’s unbelievable how much they care about one another.”
One night after letting a 16-point third-quarter lead slip all the way to one point in a quarterfinal win over Livingston Academy, the Lady Cyclones built a 17-point lead early in the second quarter against the Lady Chargers. The game never got closer than 11 points until seven minutes were left in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Westview went on a stunning 18-3 run that covered just under five minutes. Elizabethton’s lead dwindled to 55-54 with 2:13 remaining.
During the run, the shot that may have ultimately saved Elizabethton was Kelci Marosites’ trey from the head of the key. She caught a pass a shade off-balance and got off a clean look that didn’t appear to have a chance.
Bank. Rim. Bottom.
“I wasn’t set, but I kept my focus on the rim,” said Kelci. “I saw the defender coming out of the corner of my eye. I was just glad it went in.”
Kelci also delivered a big bucket at the 1:58 mark. She took a nice feed from Sarah Robinson and banked in a four-footer to end Westview’s run and give Elizabethton a 57-54 lead.
On the next possession, Bradley stepped into the fray. She faced a one-and-one opportunity, and made both with 1:22 left for a 59-54 lead.
“I have been working on free throws a lot,” said Bradley, who finished with eight points on 8-of-8 shooting from the free throw line. “(Thursday) I made sure I made five in a row before I left the gym. (Friday) I did the same thing.
“I knew my team needed them, and as a senior I needed to make them.”
Tiffany Rechis made a pair of free throws for Westview, but Bradley answered again with two one-and-one connections with 58.5 seconds left.
Westview got a pair of free throws from Kaley Leyhue with 43.7 remaining, and this time Kayla Marosites went to the line for a one-and-one chance. She made both.
“Every time I get to the free throw line I say I can do all things through Christ,” said Kayla. “And I have confidence in myself.”
Westview missed a shot on its next possession and Bradley rebounded. She went to the line and clinched the win with two more free tosses with 22.4 seconds to go.
The Cyclones made 25 of 28 attempts from the free throw line.
Robinson closed out the scoring for the Lady Cyclones with a pair of free throws, and Leyhue hit a 35-footer at the buzzer for the final margin.
The Marosites twins bounced back in a big way after struggling in the quarterfinals. Kelci led the way with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. She knocked down four treys. Kayla contributed 14 points, hitting a pair of treys and blocking a pair of shots.
Emily Kiser offered a big lift off the bench for the second straight game. She totaled 10 points and three assists.
“First and foremost I want to thank God for bringing us here and bringing me here to be a part of this,” said Kiser. “I pray for confidence every night, not just for me but the team. I’m able to shoot like I can because I work on it, but I don’t think my nerves would calm down if I didn’t pray.”
Rechis did her best to keep Westview (25-13) within reach. She finished with 26 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field. Leyhue totaled 15 points.
To win against Fulton, Dugger said his team needs to play defense.
“We need to defend and we need to rebound,” he said. “I will probably say to them tomorrow: Why not us?”
Notes: The matchup between Elizabethton and Fulton will be the first time two teams from East Tennessee (from Knoxville back up to Northeast Tennessee) have played for a girls state championship in any classification since 1991.
That was the year South Greene defeated Unicoi County for the title. Unicoi was coached by Glenn Fisher at the time. His son, John Fisher, is Fulton’s head coach.
“Unicoi and South Greene played six times that year and each won three games,” said John Fisher. “South Greene won the big one.
“I want to get here and win it for the program and the family. It’s a big game for us.”
This is the fourth consecutive year that Northeast Tennessee has had a team in the finals. Elizabethton (2014), Science Hill (2013, 2012) and North Greene (2011).comments powered by Disqus