BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
BLOUNTVILLE— There was possibly more energy waiting for the outcome of the Johnson County-Sullivan South contest at the conclusion of the Elizabethton and Central game than during the nightcap inside the Dickie Warren Dome on Friday.
Elizabethton sewed up a share of the Three Rivers Conference regular-season title with a somewhat sluggish 46-35 win over the Cougars and then clinched their teeth in hopes of a Rebel upset of the Longhorns after the game.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, Blake Atwood’s shot at the buzzer meant that Johnson County (11-1, 25-4) and Elizabethton (11-1, 20-5) finished tied for the title with the Longhorns getting the conference one-seed based on head-to-head finishes over the rest of the league.
Both get a first-round bye and advance to the regions.
A sleeper of a half
After it took about three and a half minutes for anyone to score, the Cyclones final got on the board in the first quarter and built a 7-0 lead before the Cougars added 4 points as the period finished 11-4 in favor of Elizabethton.
The Cougars finally got a little offense rolling to make a game of it by the half trailing only 23-20 at the break.
Nico Ashley led the Cyclones with 8 points in the half while Parker Hughes registered 6 points. Bryson Rollins added 4 points and Eric Wilson 3 points for Elizabethton.
Ben Williams and Kaden Duncan scored 5 points apiece to lead Central.
Status quo in the second half
Just like the first half, neither team seemed to really have any offensive heartbeat in the second half as Central did manage to battle ahead a couple of times before the Cyclones answered and re-grabbed the lead.
The Cyclones outscored Central 23-15 with 16 of those points coming in the final 8 minutes of play.
Final visit of Crystal’s scorebook
Ashley led the Cyclones in scoring with 11 points for the game. Hughes also reached double figures with 10 points.
Rollins finished with 9 points while Wilson completed his last visit to Central with 8 points. Evan Perkins scored 5 points—all in the deciding fourth quarter while Jake Roberts and Corbin Montgomery added 2 points and 1 point respectively.
Trey Rosenbalm scored 8 points to pace the Cougars while Williams and Caleb Rose scored 7 points apiece.
Not the plan
“The game plan going in was to do what we normal do and that was to get the ball out and go with it,” said Cyclone head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “I think it got off to a slow start as the shots didn’t fall early and it kind of got a little stagnate in moving the ball.
“We were reversing the ball and moving it side to side like we talked about which is a good thing, but if they are not defending that then you have to attack and make someone defend you and I thought we did a better job of that in the second half recognizing what we need to see.
“Sometimes I think we get hesitant to turn and shoot the ball when we are in the paint, you know just jump up there and shoot it,” continued Honeycutt. “I thought we did that just enough to make some things happen, but I felt like we had some kids that wasn’t gun shy to take some big shots.
“Sometimes it may have been shots we didn’t want, but you have to have a little bit of grit to you and I was proud of that. It was ugly being out of school and stuff like that.”
Cyclones wrap it up against
The Cyclones will finish their regular-season schedule with a non-conference contest against Dobyns-Bennett on Saturday.
Elizabethton looks to be more competitive than in its first matchup of the season in Kingsport.