BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
For most of the 2018-2019 basketball season, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones were suffering one bump in the road after another, but the last five games have been like cruising the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down as the Lady Cyclones rolled to their fifth straight victory with a win over Cumberland Gap in the opening round of the Class AA Regional inside John Treadway Gym.
The game marked the fourth straight game that the Lady Cyclones have won by double figures taking Friday’s contest by a 49-32 margin.
The nerves showed early
Elizabethton hasn’t been to this level in a while and although the Lady Cyclones jumped out quickly to a nine-point lead, there could have been a case of the nerves.
Cumberland Gap came roaring back to pull even in the first quarter just before Elizabethton managed to push back out to a 15-9 advantage at the first stop.
The Lady Cyclones managed to keep the lead from there building their edge to 24-16 at the half and 42-23 by the end of the third quarter before going into cruise mode in the final eight minutes of play.
Attack, attack, attack
From the initial quick lead to putting the game on ice, as long as the Lady Cyclones were attacking the basket, there was no way that the Lady Panthers had an answer to stopping the one-two punch of Kaylen Shell and Kaitlin Bailey offensively.
And with Shell and Bailey handling the scoring side, Morgan Headrick was dominating inside on the glass and on the defensive end of the court.
One slick ballhandler
Even though her stats don’t show up in the score book, there is not a point guard in the region that can handle the basketball better than Lady Cyclone Torrie Roberts.
To truly appreciate her skills, one needs to be on the floor and watch how her eyes scan the floor almost with cat-like reflexes allowing her get the ball where it needs to be.
Such was the case against the Lady Panthers as Roberts guided the basketball into the hands of her teammates at the most opportune time leading to timely baskets.
Recapping the scoring
Shell led the Lady Cyclone charge by tossing in a game-high 18 points with Bailey close behind with 16 points. Shell had three treys in the contest.
Headrick also contributed by reaching double figures with 11 points. Roberts closed out the scoring ledger with 4 points.
Kylie Fultz showed the way for the Lady Panthers with 10 points. Hannah Heath and Tabitha Roy tossed in 7 points each for Cumberland Gap.
Factoring everything together
“We finally decided to wake up,” said Lady Cyclone head coach Lucas Andrews. “You can probably say first round regional game, first game jitters playing at home because we aren’t use to playing at home where we have been playing at Happy Valley, and you can say high school kids.
“There are a lot of things that go into factor, but we were able to settle down in the second half and get back to what we were doing in rebounding and playing a little bit better defense and that’s when we were able to push it ahead.
“That was an adjustment at halftime to go inside and work our way out and we were able to,” continued Andrews. “Shell had a couple of threes’ in the second half and she’s not been able to get that with the defense people has been playing so that’s a good confidence booster for her.
“I though Morgan did a good job of controlling the paint offensively getting some looks that we wanted and that’s big because we have to have that moving forward.”
Conquering the jitters
“The first two quarters, we were just a little nervous,” said Shell, “We held it together, but we were close with them in the first half.
“We calmed down in the second half and wanted to win. We stepped up our game. I guess our nerves got the best of us early and you can expect this in big games like this.”
Moving to Happy Valley once again
The Lady Cyclones (11-21) will take on the Lady Grizzlies of Grainger (28-5) a 74-43 winner over Central on Monday night at Happy Valley High School. Elizabethton is looking to avenge an earlier loss in the season to Grainger and advance to the regional finals.