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Lady Cyclones win it all

March 8th, 2014 11:18 pm by Douglas Fritz

Lady Cyclones win it all

MURFREESBORO — Conquering the state with a we-first attitude, the Lady Cyclones banded together like sisters — twins even — and made history.

Building a giant first-half lead, this time the Lady Cyclones didn’t let their foot off the gas. They earned a 66-52 victory over Knox Fulton in the championship game of the Class AA state basketball tournament Saturday night at Murphy Center.

It was the first-ever girls state basketball title for a Tri-Cities area team. Elizabethton finished with a record of 32-3, not losing a single game all season to a Class AA team.

Fulton ended with a record of 30-6.

It was the first major-sport state championship for Elizabethton since the 1938 football team.

The Marosites twins — sophomores Kayla and Kelci — architects of the new-found state tournament success, did their thing against Fulton. They combined for 38 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, four steals and 11-of-13 shooting from the foul line.

Kayla Marosites was chosen as most valuable player after a 23-point, 12-rebound effort. Kelci was temporarily named most valuable player, before the announcer made a correction. She was equally deserving after a 15-point, eight-rebound, three-assist, three-steal performance and was chosen for the all-tournament team.

“They had to do that for us to be celebrating this,” said Lady Cyclones coach Len Dugger, who earned his first state championship in a coaching career that started with the boys over 30 years ago. “They are very special. Their work ethic and commitment not just to playing basketball but to being very good players is unbelievable.”

As the final seconds ticked off, and Cyclones were just passing the ball around and trying to hold off on the celebration.

“We started getting excited,” said Kelci Marosites. “This is like a dream come true.”

Sister Kayla said the belief was there before the title became reality.

“We knew we could do it, and we all stepped it up,” said Kayla.

Elizabethton absolutely jumped on the Falcons from the start, building a 24-7 lead early in the second quarter. Concerned about handling Fulton’s pressure, it was the Lady Falcons who couldn’t handle the length and defense of Elizabethton.

At halftime, it was 33-15. But after three straight games of relinquishing a big lead and letting the other team close to within a point or tie, senior Sarah Bradley said the team looked at the second half a little differently.

“In the locker room we told each other not to give up,” said Bradley. “We had to keep pushing forward.”

The Lady Cyclones started the second half with a bang from Megan Pietrowski. She scored five straight points to give Elizabethton a 23-point edge.

Later in the third quarter, Elizabethton went on an 11-3 run to restore its lead to 23 points at 51-28.

One problem the Cyclones had was freshman guard Quay Hines. She scored all 16 of her team’s third-quarter points — driving to the hoop or knocking down treys.

Fulton opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 spurt to close within 16. Elizabethton then missed back-to-back one-and-one opportunities.

Eventually the Falcons would close within 11 points at 59-48 with 2:11 to go. However, Bradley made a free throw, and Kayla Marosites followed with four straight tosses after a pair of tough defensive rebounds.

That ended the suspense.

Sarah Robinson, who was chosen to the all-tournament team, was a big factor in the win. She got 11 first-half rebounds and finished with 11 points and 13 boards.

“They were boxing out, but I knew rebounds were huge,” said Robinson. “So I had to go and get the ball.”

Pietrowski also earned a spot on the all-tournament team, finishing with seven points, five rebounds and playing solid defense on Fulton’s post players.

Bradley anchored the state tournament with clutch play from her point guard position and ran the offense with precision throughout. She said the team just stayed together.

“This is the closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “We give all the glory to God. We prayed a lot, every step of the way. We stayed together.”

Said Dugger, “These kids believed in themselves and one another. I’ve never quite seen a group like this. For me personally, this is for every kid who ever played for me — and for the assistant coaches. I appreciate everybody.”

Hines finished with an impressive line of 26 points, nine rebounds, five steals and two assists for Fulton. Post Keke McKinney, also a freshman, totaled 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Notes: South Greene was the last Northeast Tennessee team to win a state title, earning the Class AA crown in 1992. …

Elizabethton has a record of 59-8 over the last two seasons.

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