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Elizabethton beats homestanding Grainger for 1-AA girls title

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Mar 4, 2020 at 9:25 PM

RUTLEDGE — The Elizabethton girls basketball team made themselves at home in Wednesday’s Region 1-AA championship at Grainger High School.

The Lady Cyclones knocked down seven shots from 3-point range in the first half and captured a 50-40 win over homestanding Grainger.

After building the big lead from the outside, Elizabethton (23-10) withstood the Lady Grizzlies’ pressure enough to hold on in the second half.

“I think we shot 7-for-10 behind the 3-point line,” Elizabethton coach Lucas Andrews said. “We came out with laser focus. That was with one day of prep against that team. They’re ranked No. 3 in the state and I’ve been worried about them for months. Grainger has a heckuva team, but kudos to our team to come out and play like they did.”

Tournament MVP Morgan Headrick led the Lady Cyclones with 14 points and Kaylen Shell was right behind with 13 points. Lina Lyon and Torrie Roberts came off the bench to each score eight points.

“We had a shoot around before the game and we don’t even shoot that good at our place,” Headrick said. “We hit those shots from the outside in the first half of the game and were able to pull them out. Then, we knew we would have to attack because we had shot it outside the whole game. We knew we could get them in foul trouble or get some easy shots.”

Clamping down on the defensive end, Elizabethton led 9-4 at the end of one quarter. With the Lady Cyclones red-hot behind the arc, they pulled out to a 30-16 halftime lead.

Attacking the inside early in the third quarter, they pushed the lead to 19 points before the Lady Grizzlies (31-3) pressed and roared back with 12 straight points.

Elizabethton held on for a 36-29 lead at the end of three quarters and withstood a final push from Grainger in the fourth quarter.

“It means so much to me,” Elizabethton guard Kaitlin Bailey said. “I was a little stressed out when they made their run, but I knew we could come back from it. Our coach said they were going to go on runs, we would go on runs, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t bounce back from.”

Tori Rutherford scored 17 points, 15 of them in the second half to lead the Lady Grizzlies. Lauren Longmire was the next highest scorer with eight.

“Coach (Jon) Minton, our principal said, ‘You weathered the storm.’ We weathered quite a few of them,” Andrews said. “They cut it to three, but we held our composure. We went to a couple of different press offenses to get one that got us in a rhythm. We could have folded with their press, but I’m so proud of our kids for hanging on.”

SECTIONAL MATCHUPS

Elizabethton will host Gatlinburg-Pittman in Saturday’s sectional round with game time scheduled for 7 p.m. Grainger will travel to Carter.

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