Cyclones topple Unicoi Co. in Upper Lakes play

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

It looked as if the Elizabethton boys basketball team would have a game on their hands early on as the Cyclones hosted the Unicoi Blue Devils Tuesday night at home.  However, after a first period that ended in a tie, Elizabethton would slowly and methodically dash whatever hopes Unicoi fans would have as they had one of their best games of the season.
As a result, the Cyclones pulled out a key Upper Lakes Conference victory over Unicoi County, 70-44.
The first period saw Elizabethton start out a bit slow as they wouldn’t score their first points until the six-minute mark in the first period.  The Cyclones struggled inside early on as Unicoi started out with a speedy defense that kept them limited to the perimeter.
The Blue Devils took an early 5-2 lead, but the tide slowly turned in the Cyclones favor. Elizabethton found themselves within a point of Unicoi after Kaleb Hambrick would march down the court after a rebound and get the ball to Seth Carter for a quick score.
The slow start didn’t necessarily come from poor play as Elizabethton had plenty of opportunities inside.  They simply fell victim to bad luck as the ball just wouldn’t drop on more than one occasion.  Bryson Rollins hit a nice fade-away jumper to give the Cyclones their first lead of the night.
At the end of the first period, the scoreboard showed a 10-10 tie.
Elizabethton started out the second period with a turnover as Rollins accidentally threw the ball out of bounds, but they would quickly get their mojo back with excellent ball movement and patience underneath.
Rollins redeemed himself by taking a rebound coast to coast and hit two free throws after being fouled on a fast-break layup.  Things really began to open up in the paint as the Cyclones went up 19-13 with 4:00 to go in the first half on a score by Nicholas Wilson underneath.
Mason Ball increased the Cyclones lead after a steal and took it to the hoop uncontested, making it 21-15 on the backside of the second period.
Elizabethton really began to pick up the pace both on offense and defense, forcing the Blue Devils to take a timeout and reassess with a couple of minutes left in the half.  It didn’t seem to help as Nate Stephens stole the ball and scored after the return to play.
However, the Blue Devils quickly responded with a three-pointer making the score 25-19.  The Cyclones responded with a flurry of scoring on offense up against a suddenly struggling Unicoi defense putting the Cyclones up by 10 points at halftime by a score of 30-20.
Elizabethton started the third period where they left off with a quick five points even in the face of a rejuvenated Blue Devil defense employing a full court press.
A nice spin move and score inside by Jake Roberts put Elizabethton up 37-20 with 5:34 to go in the period.  Roberts followed this up with a three-pointer as Elizabethton began to shove the dagger in a little deeper as the third period began to wind down.
The real injury would come as Bryce VanHuss would hit back-to-back three-pointers immediately after Robert’s three, giving Unicoi fans a sense of doom as the game went into the fourth period.
VanHuss had three treys on the night.  Jake Roberts would also contribute with a pair of slick spin moves and scores to add to the Blue Devils’ demise.  The Cyclones took a commanding 22-point lead heading into the fourth.
The fourth period saw Jake Roberts fire the ball to Bryce VanHuss who would then feed Nick Wilson for a score underneath the basket.  At this point there would be a small lull by Elizabethton with a few easy shots missed.
This allowed Unicoi to catch their collective breath a bit and capitalize on the Cyclones brief shortcomings. The Blue Devils would put the pressure on defensively, but this ended up backfiring as the pressure resulted in someone for the Cyclones usually left unattended under the basket.
Seth Carter found Rollins left alone for an easy score as Elizabethon kept their cool and simply continued to do what got them to that point.  Nate Stephens would also get in on the fun with a couple of three-pointers in the second half after a decent second period.
Elizabethton’s patience continued to pay off in the face of a constant barrage of pressure defense by the Blue Devils.  Elizabethton cruised to victory with a final score of 70-44.
There was one bright note for the Blue Devils as Elizabethton recognized the opposing Lucas Slagle for his 1,000th career rebound for Unicoi.  It was a classy moment by Elizabethton as fans from both sides took pause to applaud this great achievement.
Coach Lucas Honeycutt for Elizabethton summarized the game as the Cyclones’ best so far.
“We’ve been waiting on our guys to shoot it well and play well together.  We challenged them to do that over the last couple of days after the loss to Volunteer.  They really responded tonight…it was a total team effort and they were really fun to watch,” said Coach Honeycutt.
The Cyclones top scorers were Nate Stephens with 12 along with Bryce Rollins, Bryce VanHuss, and Mason Ball all with 11 apiece.
Elizabethton, 70-44
Elizabethton (70)
J. Roberts 9, B. Rollins 11, N. Stephens 12, S. Carter 9, B. VanHuss 11, D. Mitchell 1, N. Wilson 6, M. Ball 11.
Unicoi (44)
T. Johnson 2, K. Rodriguez 4, M. Hensley 1, B. Peterson 2, G. Hensley 15, E. Johnson 12, L. Slagle 8 (1000th career rebound).
Elizabethton……10  20  23  17 – 70
Unicoi……………10  10  11  13 – 44

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