ELIZABETHTON — A year ago it was Sullivan South running through the Three Rivers Conference boys basketball season as the best in the league, but this year it appears as though Elizabethton is the team everybody is chasing.
The Cyclones (11-2, 5-0) remained perfect in Three Rivers play Tuesday at John Treadway Gym, posting a 53-45 win over the defending champion Rebels.
Elizabethton was even more convincing in the girls game, starting the night with a 57-32 landslide victory over the Lady Rebels.
In the boys game, Elizabethton used terrific man-to-man defense to gain control of the Rebels (5-6, 2-2) in the first half, and then the Cyclones were able to weather a late-game rally by South behind the leadership of Jake Roberts.
South made just 4 of 20 shots in the first half while committing eight turnovers.
“I thought we did a good job of closing out (defensively) and just getting a hand in their face, and they just weren’t hitting,” Elizabethton coach Lucas Honeycutt said. “And I thought we did a good job of boxing out after the first initial — we missed a few box-outs early, but that’s kind of been our story.
“Our defensive intensity was good all night, I thought.”
The Cyclones led 9-8 after one period before good inside play from slick William Willocks pushed the home team to a 24-13 edge at halftime with eight of his 10 points. That lead grew to 32-15 before South made its run.
The Rebels of coach Mark Pendleton began making a few shots and were able to get into their halfcourt trap, creating some havoc for Elizabethton and getting to within 39-28 by the end of the third period.
Elizabethton’s advantage shrunk to 48-43 with 1:40 to play, when Roberts nailed a clutch 3-point jumper to up the edge back up to eight points.
Roberts, who scored a game-high 17 points, had earlier in the quarter made a terrific steal and subsequent fastbreak layup, and later bagged two free throws with 10 seconds left on the clock to ice the game.
“Jake hit some big shots at some big moments,” Honeycutt said of his 5-foot-10 junior guard. “He’s a good player. He is very clutch.”
‘Betsy also got a good game inside from Nick Wilson, who scored 11 points and turned in a strong effort on the offensive glass.
South was led by the 11-point outing of Nick Ellege and the 10-point night of Colton Mullins.
LADY CYCLONES ROMP
Torrie Roberts poured in 14 points and Lina Lyon added 11 to steer Elizabethton to a runaway win in the girls game.
Morgan Headrick contributed 10 points for the Lady Cyclones, who led 28-6 at halftime and 51-15 through three quarters.
Roberts made three 3-point jumpers for Elizabethton (7-6, 2-1).
Ariana Kerney scored 10 points to pace South (8-5, 2-3).