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Elizabethton advances, Central falls in 1-AA girls tournament

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 2, 2020 at 9:41 PM

RUTLEDGE — Kaitlyn Bailey was a girl on a mission Monday night at the Region 1-AA girls basketball semifinals at Grainger High School.

The Elizabethton senior scored 12 points and had the key defensive play of the game with a blocked shot with less than three minutes to go to lead the Lady Cyclones to a 61-51 over South Greene in a showdown of state championship winning programs.

“Sometimes, I leave my feet when I don’t need to,” Bailey said. “I saw her release the ball and I knew I could swat it. They were being aggressive so I realized I needed to step up my intensity. I started going in and getting at those girls more.”

Lina Lyon led Elizabethton in scoring with 13 points. Morgan Headrick totaled 11 and Torrie Roberts added eight.

The Lady Cyclones (22-10) will play Grainger, a winner over Sullivan Central, in Wednesday’s championship game.

Both semifinal winners advanced to Saturday’s sectional round.

Elizabethton scored 13 straight points to race out to a 23-10 lead early in the second quarter, only to see South Greene storm back with 12 straight.

The Lady Cyclones finished the half on a 10-2 run for a 33-25 lead. South Greene wouldn’t go away, briefly taking a 40-38 lead, only to see Elizabethton pull ahead 49-42 after three quarters.

“It’s a testament to our kids,” Andrews said. “We preached to our kids they were never going to be out of the game. They came back and took the lead. We came down and Morgan made a three to put us back up a point.

“South Greene gets in a press and wears you down four quarters. We had the three we needed to have big games. The score and stats may not show it, but everybody had a job to do. We had a detailed scouting report of what we were trying to do and our kids really followed it.

The Lady Rebels (24-7) got no closer than a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Kiley Collins led South Greene with 18 points. Addison Williams accounted for a dozen and Jayden Merriweather scored 10.

Grainger 55, Sullivan Central 43

The Lady Grizzlies (31-2) put the pressure on the Lady Cougars early, forcing 12 first-half turnovers and slowed the pace of the game late with a 2-3 zone in the late Region 1-AA semifinal.

Tori Rutherford led four Grainger players in double figures with 13 points. Matty Tanner and Lauren Longmire each scored 11 points, while Abbey Hodge finished with 10 points.

Abbey Crawford, a Wofford signee, finished off her brilliant high school career with 16 points. Jaelyn West added 11 for the Lady Cougars, who tied a school record for wins with its 29-4 season and captured the Three Rivers Conference championship.

“It’s the day I’ve been dreading a long time and it came too fast,” Central coach Kristi Walling said. “It’s a special group even though it didn’t end the way we wanted to. We talked to them in the locker room about all they accomplished.

“They tied the school record for wins, beat 3A schools Dobyns-Bennett and Daniel Boone twice. We had to remind them how they had a great season.”

Walling talked about the impact of Crawford, along with fellow seniors Peyton Sams, Avery Leming and Parker Hurd on the school.

“I have a special place in my heart for these seniors,” an emotional Walling said. “I’ve been around Peyton, Avery and Abbey since sixth grade. When I came to the high school, Parker fell right along. Those four, I’m having a hard time letting them go.”

Crawford added, “Playing with these girls has been one of the best things to ever happen to me. Those girls are so special, my best friends, and I love them so much. We tied the school record for wins. That was something I didn’t even know we could do. It has been incredible.”

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