HAMPTON — Justin Wandell got healthy just in time to make a big impact in Elizabethton’s first win of the season.
The Cyclones’ lone senior totaled 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and hustled his way through a 59-53 win over rival Hampton on Friday night at White-Van Huss Gymnasium.
In the girls’ game, Elizabethton rolled out to an 18-point first-half lead and eventually earned a 55-46 victory.
A stress fracture in his foot sidelined Wandell for three weeks, but he returned to practice Tuesday.
“I have a pad on it and an orthotic,” said Wandell. “It’s a little sore, but other than that I was fine.”
Wandell was not the only bright spot for the Cyclones, but made his presence felt as Elizabethton stretched its lead from 35-31 to 50-35 late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. Wandell scored nine of his points during that stretch.
“I had so much energy built up where I had been watching so many practices,” said Wandell. “I almost had too much energy, and coach (Tony Gordon) had to tell me to calm down.”
Gordon said Wandell’s return was a boost for the team.
“He’s got such a heart,” said Gordon. “He’s a tough kid who gives us such a presence on the floor.”
Elijah Redd and Will Robinson also made giant contributions for the Cyclones. Redd hit a key 3-pointer late in the third quarter and led the Cyclones in scoring with 16 points while Robinson totaled 11 points and seven rebounds.
It all added up to a very important win for the Cyclones, who open Three Rivers Conference play Tuesday night at Unicoi County.
“This win is immeasurable,” said Gordon. “It’s such a confidence builder. We’re still trying to build something here. Every step we take in a positive direction is good for the team.”
Defense was a key to the victory, said Gordon.
“The defense was incredible all night,” said Gordon, whose team is 1-0 on the season. “The stuff at the end is not representative of the job we did defensively.”
That stuff was Cody McClain doing his level best to pull Hampton (2-2) out of a loss. McClain scored 13 points in the final 2:04 of the game to finish with a total of 23. He made three treys in that stretch and had five for the game.
Hampton also got a superb effort from Tyler Trusler with 12 points. Wesley Murray added 10 points.
Elizabethton (girls) 55
It was a balanced effort for the Lady Cyclones, who got between eight and 10 points from five players.
“This game was definitely a step in the right direction,” said head coach Len Dugger. “We’re still in a little disarray sometimes, but in the first half we did a good job of controlling the tempo.”
The Cyclones led 14-4 after the first quarter and 30-12 with less than a minute left before halftime. However, Paige Dugger hustled her way to two buckets before the break and the Lady Bulldogs closed within nine points on several occasions in the second half.
Reazyn DeMoss and Savannah Madgett each totaled 10 points while Caley Hodge chipped in with nine points for Elizabethton (3-2). Morgan Depew and Whitney Roberts had eight points apiece.
Dugger finished with 18 points for Hampton (1-1) while teammate Dorothy Dugger totaled 12 points and made three 3-pointers.