Lady Cyclones fall to Pioneers in District Championship

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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By Ron Marvel

Star Correspondent

Simply put, the Lady Cyclones picked a bad time to have a rough period. In a back-and-forth first half, they were outscored 26-9 in the decisive third period, leading to a 61-38 loss in the TSSAA Region 1 District 3A Championship. They will now host Grainger at home in regional play on Friday night.

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For the Cyclone faithful who traveled to Erwin on Monday night, the game started promisingly as Reiley Whitson nailed a 3-pointer to put the Cyclones up 9-0 in the first period. However, the Lady Pioneers responded with a couple of floaters in the paint as the seconds ticked off the first period. Those four points sparked a 17-4 Pioneer run, shifting the momentum. Michelle Shields scored off a running bank shot to help the Cyclones stop the bleeding and take a 13-12 lead at the 3:43 mark of the second period. However, the Pioneers rattled off another 5-0 run to go up 17-13. Throughout the game, the Cyclones struggled with clean passes, allowing the Pioneers to push their lead to six. Despite battling back to close the lead to just one point, the Lady Cyclones saw Crockett hit a 3-pointer as the half closed, pushing the lead back to four. Still, they felt encouraged surviving a run by the favored Lady Pioneers.

Shields got the Lady Cyclones on the board on their first possession to bring the game within reach, but unfortunately, it would be as close as they would get the rest of the contest as the Pioneers went on a 17-3 run. The decisive Crockett run was fueled by the Lady Cyclones’ nineteen turnovers and a significant disparity in free throws (16-4). Head Cyclones Coach Lucas Andrews took the high road, emphasizing the need to adapt to the officiating. Marlee Mathena hit her free throws to cut the Crockett lead to 20 points as the third period closed out, but another Crockett run, this time a 9-0 run, dashed any hopes of a Lady Cyclones rally. Marlee Mathena finished with 11 points, the only Lady Cyclone in double digits, while Shields chipped in 7 points. Brylee Tullock scored 18 points for the Lady Pioneers.

Post-game, Coach Andrews reflected on his squad’s performance, acknowledging the turnovers and emphasizing the need to learn from the experience. Despite the loss, the Lady Cyclones have played well in the second half of the season, exceeding expectations. They will now focus on the Grainger Grizzlies with a 7 pm tipoff scheduled for the friendly confines of Treadway Gymnasium.