Five-foot freshman Lina Lyon delivered a steal and layup late in the fourth quarter and 5-4 junior Torrie Roberts pulled off the same feat a minute later. The Lady Cyclones rode those plays and standout efforts from Morgan Headrick and MVP Kaitlin Bailey to a 59-47 win over Sullivan Central in the District 1-AA girls championship Monday night at the Dyer Dome.
It was the first loss all season for the Lady Cougars (28-3) against a team from Tennessee.
Elizabethton improved to 20-10 and won its second straight district title.
“Our girls believed,” said Lady Cyclones’ head coach Lucas Andrews. “We got them twice last year, and probably should have gotten them at Central this year. But this team just stays together and keeps digging and digging. And they don’t give up on themselves.”
With Central trailing 43-42 and holding possession with three minutes left in the game, Lyon stepped in front of a pass back to the perimeter. She beat everybody down the court for the layup and a two-point lead.
“I just read it,” said Lyon. “She just threw it, and I was there.”
After Jaelyn West knocked down a trey for the Lady Cougars, Bailey made a shot to put Elizabethton up 47-45. On the next possession, Roberts authored her theft for a 49-45 lead.
“We run this thing where we have to double-team Abbey (Crawford),” said Roberts. “When I rotated over, she just threw it to me and I had a wide-open layup.”
Central was unable to recover from the game-changing defensive plays.
Bailey said it was fun to watch the little ones come up big.
“I got so excited because I knew they were going to make the layups,” she said. “That really sealed the lead for us.”
ANOTHER KEY PLAY
Elizabethton got a momentum-boosting 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer from freshman Renna Lane. The Lady Cyclones took a 28-24 lead into the locker room, outscoring Central 26-17 after a slow start.
TWEETING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW
Part of the motivation for beating Central came from Twitter, said Lyon.
“They made several Tweets about how they were going to win and everything,” said Lyon. “That just made us really mad and we wanted to come out and beat them.”
Roberts said the Lady Cyclones seem to find a new belief in the postseason.
”I feel like every year we always get this boost of confidence at the end of the year, where we’re going to win and we’re better than everyone,” said Roberts. “And we can do it.”
“It was team, all-together effort,” said Bailey, who led the Lady Cyclones with 18 points. “I’m so grateful for my team because we all played together super well tonight.”
Headrick finished with 13 points. Kaylen Shell added 12.
The Lady Cyclones didn’t stop Crawford, but did slow her down with a sea of double-team moves throughout the game.
“Abbey is a great player,” said Andrews. “She’s going DI for a reason. She’s going to score, but you have limit her some.”
Crawford finished with 16 points to lead Central. Peyton Sams added 11 points.
“We kept fighting and digging back like we have in past,” said Central head coach Kristi Walling. “We had them right where we wanted, but made too many mistakes. We got outhustled on the other end. That’s what got us.”
Johnson County 52
Sullivan East 46
Sadie Stout lit it up in a memorable first-half performance and the Lady Longhorns carried the momentum to the win in the third-place game.
Stout hit four treys in the first half and totaled 19 points. She finished with 26 points despite having four points taken away on head-scratching charging calls. Natalie Winters added nine points for Johnson County, which improved to 23-11.
Sullivan East got 15 points from freshman Jenna Hare while Riley Nelson chipped in with 11.