BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
JOHNSON CITY— It’s always special when you can take down your larger, neighboring city school, but when you can do it twice in a season it leaves a super-sweet taste in your mouth especially when they are in a classification above you.
The Elizabethton Cyclones got to experience that taste on Tuesday evening inside the Topper Palace when the Cyclones built a double-figure lead and then fought off a late Science Hill rally in a tournament environment by a 69-65 score.
Taking it to the ‘Toppers early
Elizabethton showed no fear on Science Hill’s home floor as the Cyclones built a five-point lead, 17-12, at the end of the first quarter.
Nico Ashley was lighting up the scoreboard quickly in the period as the lanky sharp-shooter dumped in 9 points to help his team edge out front.
Parker Hughes was getting in on the fun recording 4 points for ‘Betsy as well.
Ashley keeps torching the nets
The second period wasn’t much different than the first as Ashley was like gold when he touched the basketball adding 8 points to his total to finish with 17 in the first half.
Evan Perkins, Eric Wilson, and Bryson Rollins collected 2 points each to push the Cyclone advantage to 32-21 at the break after holding Science Hill to only 9 points in the quarter.
Sparks fly in third period
If the game didn’t already have enough reason to be a powder keg of action, an official got a touch of thin skin and elected to clear two rows of Cyclone fans out of the gym with several being parents and family of the Cyclone players.
The move ignited the Cyclone team that responded by outscoring the ‘Toppers 21-18 to keep the game in check for the visitors taking a 53-39 lead into the final period of play.
It was the trio of Wilson, Hughes, and Perkins that bulled their way past the ‘Toppers in the stanza scoring 5 points each.
Rollins tossed in 4 and Ashley added 2 points to set the stage for the final 8 minutes of play.
‘Toppers don’t go quietly into the night
Everyone in the gym knew SH would have one last run in them and that run came near the 6- minute mark as the ‘Toppers buried back-to-back treys to whittle the lead down to 57-53 with 4:45 left to play.
Cyclone head coach Lucas Honeycutt called a timely timeout to settle his team and the Cyclones quickly pushed back to 8 points.
However, with under 2 minutes to play the game became even more interesting as the ‘Toppers hit another Trey to make it a 3-point Cyclone edge.
Freshman Jake Roberts came off the bench as cold as ice and with ice water running through his veins, Roberts stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws to once again build the lead to 5 points.
From there, the Cyclones managed to rebound the basketball and hold off the ‘Toppers to earn the win and the sweep.
A scorebook visit
Ashley finished the game with a game-high 25 points for the Cyclones (19-5, 10-1). Hughes and Rollins were close behind with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Wilson had a solid game in his last against the ‘Toppers recording 9 points while Perkins also closed out his career against SH with 7 points. Carter Everett (4) and Roberts (2) closed out the scoring for ‘Betsy.
The Cyclones were 23-of-36 from the charity stripe.
Laithen Shingledecker led the ‘Toppers (13-15, 7-4) with 15 points.
on the sweep
“It’s uncommon and you have to be tough no matter what is going on with them record-wise or whatever,” said Honeycutt. “In their building, they are super confident and they feel like they are always going to get it done.
“That’s kind of been a historic thing for them. For our kids to be able to do that, it’s huge for our program, it’s huge for us going forward. That should send a message to our kids that if we can outlast that, then we have a good shot of moving on and doing some big things.