Lady Cyclones hang tough against 11th ranked Lady Hilltoppers

Published 9:53 am Thursday, February 7, 2019

JOHNSON CITY— For the most part, there is no such thing as a moral victory for basketball coaches, but for Elizabethton girls’ head coach Lucas Andrews, that may have been very well the case as his young team played with heart and soul against the state’s 11th ranked, Class 3-A Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers.

After trailing by 16 points in the second half, the Lady Cyclones came clawing back to within 7 points in the fourth quarter before running out of gas in dropping a 59-46 decision in the Topper Palace Tuesday evening.

A strong opening quarter

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The Lady Cyclones came out and played one of their most aggressive opening quarters of the season as they exchanged blow for blow with the Lady Hilltoppers to trail by only 2 points, 17-15, at the first stop of the contest.

McKendra Norris and Kaylen Shell set the pace for Elizabethton with 5 points apiece in the opening 8 minutes. Torrie Roberts also buried a trey to help make it for an exciting period of play.

Lack of ball protection

allows Lady ‘Toppers to stretch lead

Ball protection or the lack thereof was the main culprit that allowed Science Hill to pull out to the 16-point lead in the second period as on several occasions turnovers led to easy transition baskets on the Lady ‘Topper end.

With Alasia Smith doing most of the damage scoring 10 points in the stanza, Science Hill outscored the Lady Cyclones 21-10 taking a 38-25 lead to the locker room.

Shell added 6 points more to her total to keep the game from getting any further out of hand.

Zone defense turns the game in third

Playing a solid 2-3 zone, the Lady Cyclones frustrated the Lady ‘Toppers in the third quarter and cut into the lead by outscoring SH 13-8 to go into the fourth trailing 46-38.

Shell led the way as she tallied 8 points in the stanza including a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line. Morgan Headrick added 3 points and Kelsie Winters 2 in the comeback.

Injuries take toll

The Lady Cyclones may have been able to be more competitive had it not been for starting point guard Roberts going out with an undetermined hand injury and Winters pulling up with a leg injury as well.

Adding to the problems was senior Abbey Townsend getting popped in the ear and having to set out to a few minutes to get her bearing.

Andrews was pleased with the way his team responded to the injuries and not folding to keep the game close until late.

A look at the scoring ledger

Shell finished with 21 points to lead the Lady Cyclones while Norris played a stellar game to record 10 points.

Headrick collected 6 points with Roberts adding 3 points. A trio of Lady Cyclones recorded 2 points each including Winters, Cassey Fowler, and Townsend.

Smith dumped in 22 points to lead Science Hill.

Great news for ‘Betsy

Probably the best news of the night was the Lady Cyclones adding a potential catalyst to the squad as Unicoi County transfer Kaitlyn Bailey is now officially cleared to play varsity basketball after sitting out her 12-month transfer wait.

That could be a huge game changer for Andrews team as Bailey will see her first action Friday night against Sullivan Central.

Bailey gives the Lady Cyclones another inside-outside presence to compliment Headrick and Shell.

Andrews talks about the game

“We had a stretch there in the second quarter of about two or three minutes where we didn’t take care of the ball,” said Andrews. “They got a lot of deflections and steals resulted in points on the other end.

“If we take care of the basketball, we are still in the game. In my opinion, we were not out of it down 16 points, but you feel a little better where you can make some adjustments when you get to halftime.

“We stood toe-to-toe with them. In the fourth quarter until the minute and a half mark we were still in the game with an opportunity to do some good things, but once again ball protection—we didn’t take care of it.”