Cyclones Notch Quality Win at North; Lady Cyclones Break Away for 21-Point Triumph
By Tim Chambers
KINGSPORT — Coca-Cola couldn’t have been any more of the real thing than what Elizabethton was on the road against Sullivan North on Tuesday night. The Cyclones raised some eyebrows with their 72-58 win against a team that had defeated Unicoi County in its last outing.
’Betsy started slow in the girls game but came away with a 60-39 victory.
The black and gold-clad fan base was pumped and ready, expecting the Raiders to pick up another big win. The few that hung around for 32 minutes left with disappointment and frustration.
The Cyclones trailed 17-11 after one, but used their depth to outscore North 26-14 in the second quarter. Coach Len Dugger praised his bench play as being one of the key factors in the win.
“Michael Wagner, Nikolai Simpson and Jesse Honeycutt came in and hit some buckets that were crucial,” said Dugger. “Zach Norwood gave us some energy off the bench that got our other kids going. We got down early, but it was huge when we were able to go back ahead and lead by eight at the half.”
The home team caught Elizabethton napping on defense in the first quarter. Jon Kilgore was able to get a couple of easy baskets off lob passes over ’Betsy’s matchup zone, but all that would change in the second stanza.
The Cyclones went to a bigger lineup that including 6-8 sophomore Wagner and bruising power forward Simpson to try and shut down North’s inside game. The plan worked to perfection. They outscored them 26-14 during that eight-minute span.
While the twin towers were providing the rebounding and “D,” the guards were causing all kinds of problems for North.
Zeke Clark made like Roy Clark and played some string music to the tune of two treys. Justin Wandell countered with five points, including a trifecta that gave EHS the lead.
Jesse Honeycutt’s five points off the bench were crucial. His three-ball at the 2:11 mark put Elizabethton in front to stay at 32-29.
Late baskets by Will Robinson and Simpson enabled the Cyclones to build an eight point advantage. It stayed there thanks to a late three-point play by Norwood after North had cut it to five.
Things didn’t get any better for North in the third quarter. Wandell and Robinson showed the hot hand to combine for a baker’s dozen in the frame. Alex Baughman had pushed the lead to double-digits with a trifecta.
Wandell added a three point play giving them a 52-38 advantage with 1:57 showing. Wagner dazzled the crowd with a jump hook in the final minute and Simpson bulldozed his way for a basket.
“This team is playing for each other, so we want to play that much harder,” said Wandell. “We made a run and everybody contributed. It wasn’t just the starters it was our bench, too. Everybody want to win and is willing to do whatever it takes to get on top.”
The same intensity continued for ’Betsy in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Miller got things started with a deuce, with Wandell adding a pair of early baskets. With things going well on the offensive end, Baughman made sure the rebouding department was secure. He collected four in the frame and had 10 for the game.
North would get no closer than 13.
Wandell led the way with 19 points and six assists. Robinson cashed in with 14 points while Baughman just missed a double-double with his nine points.
Clark tallied a half-dozen points and dished out a game-high eight assists. Wagner provided six points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Simpson had five rebounds and six points.
Chase Arnold and Kilgore tallied 15 points each for Sullivan North.
Dugger pointed to the team’s continuity as a vital ingredient in their recent success.
“When they go against each other in practice, it’s hard to score,” added Dugger. “They really get after it, so it makes the games more fun. They’ve bought into our system and I think they’re playing for each other. It’s important to put the team first and these boys have done that. I know they care about one another. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
North challenged Elizabethton for a quarter, but it began to fade in the second stanza.
The Cyclones scored 11 of their 13 first-quarter points in the paint. The lone 15-footer by Casey Jones gave ’Betsy a lead it would never relinquish. It was everybody contributing from that point.
“I thought we had an advantage on the inside and we’ve worked some pounding it in there, said Elizabethton’s Mike Wilson. “They started doubling down on the post and then we had to kick it back out. We didn’t shoot well from the outside and part of that is my fault. We need to shoot more shots in practice and we’ll fix that.”
Elizabethton began the second quarter on a 10-3 run. Morgan Depew’s basket gave them a 23-13 advantage midway through the quarter. Savannah Madgett kept the inside game going with a pair of baskets and two blocked shots on the defensive end.
North scored only eight points in the quarter and trailed 30-18 at the half.
The difference in the game was rebounding. Caley Hodge, nine, Whitney Roberts, eight, and Reazyn DeMoss and Madgett with seven apiece gave the quartet 31 of Elizabethton’s 40 total. North was limited to 19.
Baskets by Miranda Isaacs, Abby Pierce and Megan Pietrowski extended the margin to 19 points late in the game. To North’s credit, it never allowed it to reach 20.
Depew tied for game-high scoring honors with 15. Madgett played a stellar role in the win with 10. Lauren McCurry added eight points, four assists and four steals.
North got 15 points from Kaysey Williams. Jessica Parker would knocked down 13.
Wilson summed up the win.
“It’s not that out kids didn’t play hard,” he said. “I thought it was a good effort, but we just shot it bad. But it’s becoming too much of a trend, so we’ll start shooting a whole lot more starting tomorrow.”