Erasing a 12-0 deficit, the Cyclones came back to hand Sullivan South its first Three Rivers Conference basketball loss — defeating the Rebels 65-58 on Tuesday night at Treadway Gym.
It was a scary start to the basketball game for Elizabethton as Sullivan South opened with a hot hand on offense and a quick hand on defense.
“We just had to calm down and follow the game plan,” Elizabethton coach Lucas Honeycutt said. “After the first quarter, we got back into it. I think this is a big confidence booster after coming back from that early deficit. We’ve had games like this before and I believed that helped us here in this game tonight.”
South (23-4, 10-1 TRC) came in looking to wrap up an outright Three Rivers championship, but the second-place Cyclones (11-13, 9-2) maintained hope for a share of that crown and the No. 1 seed in the District 1-AA tournament. Each team has one conference game remaining.
Nico Ashley was the biggest contributor in Elizabethton’s comeback, finishing with a game-high 22 points. Patrick Hughes and William Willocks each scored 14, and Braden Phillips tallied 11 points.
“I think we had a lot of nerves with us,” Ashley said. “We started to relax and end up with the win. I want to get a feel for the game and want to win no matter what we are doing. This was a big confidence boost for not only myself but the team, too.”
Ben Diamond did all he could for the Rebels, netting a team-high 19 points.
Diamond dropped 11 of his points in the first quarter, which aided South’s hot start, but the second quarter took a turn of events as Elizabethton began to climb back, slowly.
The Rebels forced eight turnovers against the Cyclones in the first three minutes of the first quarter for their 12-0 advantage.
Elizabethton finally found itself a rhythm on the offensive end after slowing down the tempo. The Cyclones began to match South’s scoring before the deficit was too much to climb out of.
After a 28-16 start in the first quarter, the Rebels’ hot start hit a roadblock as they were managed only six points in the second quarter.
“South has some tough players to defend,” Honeycutt said. “We had to make sure to focus on their scorers. We were able to gain some confidence and get right back in the game. Our defense did a great job helping our offense.”
The Cyclones, however, found a groove to work within the second as a 9-0 run broke out for them midway through the quarter.
South’s lead was cut to just three after Elizabethton's charge, but the Rebels managed to squeak a couple of baskets in before the half for a 34-29 advantage.
Diamond led all scorers with 15 points. Ashley followed with 10.
The Rebels started the second half with two quick buckets for a 38-29 advantage. However, a solo run from Ashley cut it to just one. He reeled off eight straight points — on two 3-pointers and a dunk — to cut the Cyclones’ deficit to 38-37.
Still, no matter how many times Elizabethton cut the lead to one in the third, it could never steal the advantage — trailing 43-42.
Nevertheless, Elizabethton grabbed its first lead in the fourth quarter and never let it go. A 7-0 run by the Cyclones grabbed them a 53-45 advantage for some separation to run with to close the game.
And Elizabethton closed the game by protecting its lead and knocking down its foul shots.
Elizabethton 61, Sullivan South 27
Everything was clicking for the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones.
Elizabethton showed no signs of mishaps against the visiting Lady Rebels of Sullivan South in the Three Rivers contest. The rhythm was founded early and was never let go of by Elizabethton as it rolled on to victory.
“This is the first night we have clicked on both sides of the ball for all four quarters,” Elizabethton’s coach Lucas Andrews said. “Our defense turned into offense. We started to trust ourselves through the game and it helps us out a lot.”
It’s the perfect time for Elizabethton (16-10, 7-4) to start clicking considering the district tournament is upon it.
South (9-17, 2-9) is still having a difficult time putting together a win.
The Lady Cyclones place themselves in the No. 3 spot in the District 1-AA tournament.
“We did a lot of good tonight,” Andrews said. “We have to point that out to the players. We have to get their confidence going before the tournament gets here because that is the biggest thing to have.”
Eight different players entered the scorebook for Elizabethton. Morgan Headrick led the way with a game-high 14 points. Kaitlin Bailey scored 12 points and Lina Lyon tallied eight points.
Much of the scoring for South came from McKenzie Littleton with 10 points.
Littleton nailed an early 3-point basket, but Elizabethton answered with a major run for a 14-6 lead.
The Lady Cyclones eventually separated themselves by 10 points, but a couple of baskets brought the Lady Rebels within single digits. Elizabethton led 20-11 after one quarter.
A struggling second quarter came next for South as only two points were scored.
Elizabethton closed the first half with an 11-0 surge to build a 31-13 lead at the half.
“We have gotten these runs all year but we kept getting runs here tonight,” Andrews said.
The struggles developed in the second quarter carried into the third quarter for the Lady Rebels.
Elizabethton began the second half with a 10-0 run, including two 3-pointers.
South finally inserted itself on the scoreboard in the third with a 6-0 spurt, but it did no real damage to Elizabethton’s lead.
The Lady Cyclones were up 48-19 heading into the final quarter. Elizabethton separated itself by 30 points, and from there it coasted to victory as starters came out.