The Cyclones’ standout senior finished off a 17-point, 10-rebound performance with a tie-breaking stick-back as the clock ticked under 40 seconds in overtime. Wilson was fouled on the bucket, made the free toss, and the Cyclones held on for a 50-45 win over Sullivan South in the District 1-AA basketball championship Tuesday night at Bayless Gym.
“I saw it and had to go get it,” said Wilson, who recovered the ball after Nico Ashley’s off-balance two-hand tip to him for the unorthodox assist. “I really didn’t get a good handle on the ball. It came off my fingertips and it rolled in. It’s crazy what happens this time of year.”
It was the Cyclones’ first district title since 2015.
“The kids had a different look when it went to overtime, and I felt pretty confident,” said Cyclones’ head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “It was a great effort and just enough little things to get it done.”
Elizabethton improved to 22-6 on the season and will play host to Grainger (17-12) in Saturday’s regional quarterfinal contest at 7 p.m.
South fell to 20-12 and will also be at home Saturday, against South Greene (16-13).
In the third-place game, Johnson County outlasted Unicoi County, 67-58. The Longhorns will visit Chuckey-Doak while Unicoi will travel to face Greeneville.
BIG NIGHT FOR ERIC
Along with his points and rebounds, Wilson — the tournament’s most valuable player — was an integral part of the offensive flow.
“We couldn’t do it without him,” said Honeycutt. “He’s a special player who does a lot of things for us.”
Wilson said it may have been his best game of his career so far, but he focused on the win.
“I just like to win,” he said. “It’s a team effort. All of us get 10 (points), and somebody goes off for 15 or 20. That’s usually when we take the win.”
After Elizabethton missed a trey with 36 seconds left in regulation, South tried to hold for the last shot. The Rebels called timeout with 10.5 seconds left and again with 4.9, but couldn’t get a shot off as the Cyclones’ Parker Hughes knocked the ball loose just before the buzzer.
Bryson Rollins didn’t have any problem with the spotlight moment. The Cyclones’ freshman totaled 10 points, which included two gutsy drives to the hoop in the fourth quarter.
Ashley was also a key factor, totaling nine points.
South was led by Gannon Chase with 11 points, and Ben Diamond was terrific with the ball in his hands. He finished with 10 points and seven assists.
South head coach Michael McMeans said both teams battled.
“It was just a great game,” he said. “It got to overtime, and credit Eric Wilson. He made a huge play. They made one more play than we did, and that was the game.”
Johnson County 67
Unicoi County 58
It took a while for Johnson County to find the sweet spot, but the Longhorns got there in the nick of time.
Trailing for most of the contest, the Longhorns — led by 31 points from Blake Atwood — passed Unicoi County with four minutes to go.
Lucas Phillips contributed 15 points to the Longhorns’ cause.
Unicoi was led by Gavin Casey’s 16-point effort. Brock Thompson added 13 while Danny Lowery chipped in with 12 points.