Treadway Gymnasium was rocking Saturday night as the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones had their bulls eye on a trip to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Girls State Basketball Tournament as they played host to Region 2 runner-up Fulton High School out of Knoxville.
Feeding off the tremendous support of nearly 1,000 fans that packed the gym clad mainly in orange, the Lady Cyclones took that energy and turned it into a 68-50 victory that sealed the second trip to Murfreesboro in the last three years for this group of seniors -- something that hasn't been done in girls basketball at EHS.
Elizabethton came out smoking in the first quarter behind the sizzling shooting of Erin Kiser who buried three treys in the quarter for nine points. Kiser had help from senior teammate Cara Bowling who also blistered the nets for nine in the stanza, including a three-ball of her own.
Despite the hot scoring, Elizabethton found themselves only up by nine points, 22-13, as the Lady Falcons behind senior Bre Hall who scored seven came roaring back to life at the end of the first stop.
Defense was the name of the game in the second period as neither team found the success they had in the first half battling to a 13-9 quarter in favor of the Lady Cyclones.
Reazyn DeMoss had another stellar outing as the sophomore scored seven to lead 'Betsy with a trey thrown in. Lindsey Norris did some dirty work down low to add six to account for the Lady Cyclones scoring in the period.
Brittani Whiteside led Fulton with three points while the trio of Morgan Rogers, Hall, and Victoria Griffin netted a deuce apiece.
With a 35-22 advantage at the intermission, Lady Cyclone fans were breathing a little easier, but soon oxygen would be needed in the third period as the Lady Falcons came storming back after feisty Lady Cyclone point guard Kristen Powell was hung with her third foul and had to take a seat for the next 6:18 of the game.
Fulton managed to trim the fat to three points, 49-46 with 5:45 left to play in the game before the Lady Cyclones regrouped and iced the contest after Powell came back into the mix.
Powell, who Coach Len Dugger calls his motor, was like Pepto Bismol as she was able to get her squad soothed, calmed and back in a rhythm to close out a run that gave Elizabethton the state berth with the 18-point win.
Another Lady Cyclone who had a big second half for EHS was Chelsea Bowling who scored 14 of her 18 in the final 16 minutes of action. Cara Bowling meanwhile drained 10 points to finish as the game-high scorer with 19. Kiser finished with 18, DeMoss nine and Norris six.
Hall finished with a team-high 18 but had to leave the game in the fourth period after receiving a glancing blow to the face. Reports after the game was that Hall was taken to the hospital for a possible concussion as she was unsteady and not sure of where she was.
Rogers was the only other Fulton player in double figures with 10. Whiteside added eight while Cierra Howard, Miata Mathis, and Griffin all finished with four points each.
DeMoss had nine boards to help the Lady Cyclones to a 29-20 edge on the glass. Cara Bowling had six rebounds, with Kiser and Chelsea Bowling accounting for five each.
Hall and Castle had six each for Fulton.
Kiser said her hot shooting in the first quarter was due to being focused.
"I was definitely focused because this was my last time playing on this floor, and I came out ready to play," said Kiser. "We got a little excited there when they started to come back, but we just refocused and got back to playing our game."
Even though Powell was sitting on the bench straddled with the fouls, her motor was revving and she was wanting to get back into the contest.
"I had confidence in my team when I wasn't in there to get things going again," stated Powell who finished with 11 assist. "I knew he (Dugger) was going to sit me, but I kept telling Coach Brown to put me back in.
"We haven't played a team as quick as Fulton all season. It was just that we had more heart and determination to get to state."
Dugger said that having Powell out of the game is not always about the scoring aspect she brings.
"Coach Hyder and I have always said she doesn't have to score a point because she is the motor that gets us going," continued Dugger. "I put Morgan in a tough situation, and I hope it will be a good experience for her in the future.
"When she came out we came down and didn't get any good scoring possessions and that got us in disarray. I guess the good Lord above gave me a peace and calm about the game. I took that timeout and challenged them, and they went back and responded in a championship-type way."
Dugger went on to add that he thought there were a couple keys to the game going in favor of his Lady Cyclones.
"It was just their heart and not wanting to be denied," continued Dugger. "I thought we made plays on both ends of the floor and rebounded the ball better in the last half.
"The fans were huge in this game as well. They were huge."
Dugger wanted to make sure that a special group was recognized that has done a lot of the dirty work this season for the 33-1 Lady Cyclones.
"I appreciate Coach Hyder, Coach Brown, Coach Simerly, and Coach Carver so very much," added Dugger. "People don't realize the time that this coaching staff has put into this team and how much they love and care about this team.
"They have done a great job expanding their game and helped them to recognize things that has helped in key situations. These kids are very fortunate to have them, and I am very thankful for all the contributions to the team and the program they have made."
The Lady Cyclones find out Sunday who their opponent will be in the opening game of the tournament as Coach Dugger and Athletic Director Mike Wilson travel to Murfreesboro for the drawing of the games.
Brackets should be available on TSSAA.org somewhere around 4 p.m. eastern time today,
There now is only one thing left for this group of Lady Cyclones before the season ends -- a gold ball recognizing them as state champs!
Good luck to the Lady Cyclones on their march toward that title.
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Class AA Sub-State
Howard 4, Rogers 10, Castle 2, Mathis 4, Whiteside 8, Hall 18, Griffin 4.