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Lady Cyclones stopped short by defensive-savvy Gatlinburg-Pittman

Johnny Wilson • Mar 7, 2020 at 10:59 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Just one step from the state tournament, the Elizabethton girls basketball team had its dream taken away Saturday night by the well-schooled and focused Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders, dropping a 44-40 decision in Class AA sectional play at John Treadway Gym.

And make no mistake, it was taken.

"All the credit to Gatlinburg-Pittman," allowed Cyclone coach Lucas Andrews.

The Highlanders (22-11) had to sweat the final four minutes, but otherwise led all evening and confidently stood firm when Elizabethton threatened to win late.

Led on both ends of the floor by dynamic 5-foot-4 junior point guard Sydney McCarty, Gatlinburg-Pittman was fueled to victory by its defense, a half-court, man-to-man, full-on pressure scheme that was hard to read at times.

It forced Elizabethton (24-11) into 16 turnovers, including eight in the first period, from which the Cyclones could not recover.

McCARTY DEFENSIVE WHIZ

With cat-like quickness, McCarty created havoc all evening, producing steal after steal, and also generating a push-it-up-the-floor attack offensively.

"Yeah, she's good," Andrews said. "We knew they were going to D-up from the half line and get after ya and pressure ya. And we had some things (in the game plan), but in the first half we just couldn't get into it, just couldn't get into what we were trying to do. And it was them that did it.

"They pushed us around and they put us where they wanted us instead of the other way around. They do a good job of disguising that man to make it look like different things. We just didn't execute like we were supposed to."

FAST START, STRONG FINISH

Behind terrific interior passing and eight quick points from center Taylor Reed, Gatlinburg-Pittman ran out to a 13-6 lead after one quarter. And with senior Ivy Bales heating up, the Highlanders methodically upped their edge to 37-27 by the end of the third period and appeared to be in no danger.

But the Cyclones, boosted by the play of Lina Lyon off the bench, looked to seniors Kaitlin Bailey and Kaylen Shell and made a run.

'Betsy closed to within 39-37 with 3:23 to play and had two possessions to gain the lead, yet twice came up empty.

Additionally, with G-P up 42-40, an Elizabethton turnover in the game's final 5.5 seconds left the Cyclones high and dry in the end.

Bales, a senior who scored 15 points, made two free throws with 0.3 on the clock to seal it for the Highlanders, who move on to the state tournament.

Shelby Moore, another senior, made three big free throws down the stretch for G-P. She and Bales combined to make 11 of 12 foul shots on the night.

WRAPPING UP

Reed finished with 10 points for Gatlinburg-Pittman, which got 17 combined points from Moore and Bailey Lane, who hit two 3s.

Elizabethton, done for the year, received 16 points from Bailey and 11 from Shell in the final game for both seniors.

"I'm sincerely proud of the fight my girls showed," Andrews said. "But Gatlinburg-Pittman earned this. They hit big shots all night long, especially Bales, and many times over our big (twin 6-foot) defenders. Hats off to them."

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