BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
The Unicoi County Blue Devils came in with a game plan that vexed the Elizabethton Cyclones who only wanted to honor their senior players on Senior Night 2019, but were forced to fight back the onslaught of a determined bunch of Blue Devils that had upset on their minds.
Using rock-solid free throw shooting down the stretch, the Cyclones captured the Three Rivers Conference victory 70-65.
Spotlighting the seniors
For the first time all season, the five Cyclone seniors who have worked diligently to make Elizabethton a contender took the court as a unit as Will Bowers, Eric Wilson, Evan Perkins, Austin Canter, and Carter Everett walked out to the starting tip.
The Cyclones seniors held their own until the Blue Devils dropped a couple of threes’ that gave Unicoi Co. a 7-point lead that forced Cyclone head coach Lucas Honeycutt to call a time out with a little over 4 minutes left in the first quarter and go to his normal rotation.
When the horn sounded at the first stop, the scoreboard showed the Blue Devils up 20-11 on the strength of Brock Thompson’s 11 first-quarter points.
Fighting to pull even
Elizabethton used its defense to force the Blue Devils into a few bad-quality shots that lead to the Cyclones being able to make a run in the second quarter to make the game an even-term contest at the half, 32-32.
Scoring 21 points in the period, the Cyclones fed off seven points from Perkins and six points by Parker Hughes.
Robbie O’Dell kept the Blue Devils in the game knocking down eight points in the stanza.
A little breathing room
After making some adjustments on defense at the half, the Cyclones managed to build a five-point edge when the horn ended the third quarter, 49-44.
Everett drilled a trey and added a field goal for 5 points in the quarter while Nico Ashley and Wilson tallied four points to give the Cyclones a much-needed lift.
Thompson’s five points paced Unicoi Co. to keep the game close.
Making the most of the freebies
Elizabethton did what any good team does to win the close games, and that was to be effective at the charity stripe in the final 8 minutes of the game as the Blue Devils had to foul late to have any shot at pulling the upset.
The Cyclones visited the line 12 times in the fourth quarter and knocked down 10 of those to help secure the win.
Wilson was money in the bank from the line as the senior made the most of his night by hitting 7-of-8 attempts from the foul line in the quarter.
Ashley buried a critical trey and added 2-of-2 from the line as well.
A glance at the books
The game saw four Cyclones hit for double digits led by Wilson with 18 points in the contest. Nico Ashley had a nice game with 15 points including a two-hand flush dunk in the first quarter that electrified the Cyclone faithful.
Perkins and Hughes finished the game with 11 points and 10 points respectively. Everett finished with 7 points while Bryson Rollins registered 6 points.
Corbin Montgomery finished the night with 2 points and Canter closed out the scoring with 1 point.
Thompson led all scorers with 19 points in the game while teammates Gavin Casey and O’Dell finished with 18 and 11 respectively.
Honeycutt says team did what it needed to do
“You think about seniors and Senior Night and down the stretch, there were a couple of seniors that put the ball in the hole at key times to keep it from being really scary,” said Honeycutt. “They gave us a game by scoring 65 points tonight and they shot it well.
“For us, it was an emotional thing you know. Trying to play well on a senior night sometimes makes you play a little different. It’s hard to control all those things and the way kids are feeling at that age.
“It affected the way we played a little bit,” continued Honeycutt. “Our press wasn’t as successful as it normally is tonight and we struggled with that some.
“We were able to back up and do some things defensively and make plays when we needed to and that’s a sign of a good team.”