BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
The way basketballs were being swatted inside John Treadway Gym Monday evening was more reminiscent of watching a pinball machine than a basketball game as Elizabethton’s Nico Ashley was doing much of the swatting with help from Corbin Montgomery.
As a result of the defensive effort, the Cyclones turned a 4-point halftime lead into a 16-point Three River’s Conference victory over South, 67-51.
First half defense provides offensive yawner
Neither team could get rolling offensively in the first half as the defense seemed to have been put on display.
In the first quarter alone, Ashley blocked at least 4 shots to the delight of the Cyclone fan base who gave approval of what they were witnessing.
When Ashley got in a little foul trouble, Montgomery didn’t miss a beat launching at least three rejections of his own against the Rebels offensive attack.
Cyclones show tentativeness on offense in half
While the defense was showing out, the offense seemed to struggle putting points on the board. Parker Hughes 7 points helped to build the Cyclone lead to 24-20 after 16 minutes of play. Ashley added 5 points while Montgomery and Evan Perkins added 4 points apiece.
“We were getting good looks, but I felt like we were a little gun shy,” said Cyclone head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “We were waiting on the ball or waiting on someone to block it instead of putting it in the hole. That was big early.”
Turning up the heat
Elizabethton came out of the locker room and like much of the season made needed adjustments and then stoked the defensive coals to force South into several turnovers that translated into easy baskets at the Cyclone end of the court.
Perkins and Eric Wilson had a lot to do with the turnovers knocking the ball loose from the hands of the Rebels as the ball was worked into the front court.
With the defense firing on all cylinders, the Cyclone offense started to click as Elizabethton took a 42-30 at the third stop of the contest.
Revving up the engines
Just like a racing dragster bursting out of the starting blocks, the Cyclones fed off their effort in the third stanza and continued to play at a high level in the final eight minutes of action.
With many of their points coming at point blank range or at the foul line, the Cyclones extended their lead and left no doubt after having to come from 20 points down in their first meeting at South.
A look at the scoring leaders
Hughes led three Cyclones (9-1, 17-4) in double digit scoring with a game-high 25 points while Wilson and Ashley finished with 12 points each.
Perkins ended the contest with 8 points with Bryson Rollins and Montgomery finishing with 4 points apiece.
Carter Everett collected 2 points.
Bowery had 21 points to lead the Rebels (5-4, 19-8). Layne added 11 points.
Final review of the game
“We got into our press in the second half and that changed things,” said Honeycutt. “We did a really good job containing people and not getting too much overplay.
“We did a really good job of chasing the ball back to midcourt, and we had a lot of blocked shots tonight. I wished we had taken more charges but we can live with it when it’s like that.”
Big game on the horizon
The Cyclones have another big Three Rivers Conference game on Friday when they play host to Unicoi Co. as the second half of the season winds down toward district tournament play.