BY IVAN SANDERS, Elizabethton Star
The game was worthy of a district championship as the Elizabethton Cyclones and Sullivan South Rebels exchanged volley for volley.
However, the biggest blast of the game came from tourney MVP Eric Wilson who collected a loose ball under the Cyclone basket and somehow threaded the ball between a Rebel defender for a tie-breaking bucket while drawing a foul to put the Cyclones out front for good leading to a 50-45 win for Elizabethton.=
Shake, rattle, and roll
Both teams came into the contest with the utmost confidence and each time a team started to shake a little bit by edging out front, the other team showed no rattle of nerves and rolled back into the game.
The biggest lead of the contest was eight points by Elizabethton who started the second half with a 10-0 run to take a 30-22 lead before South reeled off five straight points to quickly slice the gap to three before taking a one-point lead just moments later.
A chance at the win
South actually had the chance to win in regulation after collecting an errant Cyclone shot with 32 seconds on the clock and running the game clock down to under 10 seconds before calling two timeouts.
With the dangerous Ben Diamond having the ball in his hand as the time ticked down from 4.9 seconds, the Cyclone defense rose to the occasion and forced a shot off the mark to send the game into a four-minute overtime tied at 45-45.
Owning the overtime period
Each team had opportunities at buckets in the early going of the extra period, but neither could find the mark until Wilson converted his old-fashion three-point play with a few ticks over a minute left to play.
The Cyclones got the separation needed to be able to take a breath seconds later when Evan Perkins was fouled and hit the front end of a one and one before swishing the second shot home to push the lead to 50-45 with time quickly ticking off the game clock.
When the final horn sounded, the Cyclones would embrace and celebrate the satisfying victory.
By the book….
Wilson was worthy of the MVP award as the senior was all over the court pulling down rebounds, saving loose balls, finding opening teammates, and ripping the cotton for 17 points that included three deep treys.
All-tourney selections Bryson Rollins and Nico Ashley contributed in a huge way as Rollins recorded 10 points while handling the basketball effectively from his point-guard position and Ashley roamed the paint dropping in nine points while sweeping the boards for some big rebounds as well.
Senior post Carter Everett tallied six points with solid work in the paint while Perkins and Parker Hughes checked in with four points apiece. Perkins was also tabbed for All-Tourney recognition.
For South, Gannon Chase led the way with 11 points while Diamond shined by collecting 10 points.
Rewind with the MVP
“I don’t know if it was Carter (Everett) or Nico (Ashley) that tipped it, I just knew I had to go get it,” said Wilson of the game-clinching shot. “I didn’t get a good hand on the ball, it just came off my fingertips and went in.
“It’s crazy what happens this time of year. We needed a stop late and that’s one thing that you never want to be is on defense with the last shot coming your way.
“I just like to win and whatever it takes to win,” continued Wilson. “It’s all a team effort. Some of us get 10 and someone goes off scoring 15 to 20 is what it takes for us to win.
“South is an extremely tough team—that’s why they are here. They’re going to go on and get a home game at their place for the first round of the region, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again.
“We will be ready on Saturday.”
From the coach’s viewpoint
“It’s weird because both teams are pretty good teams and can score it,” said Elizabethton head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “I think it’s just a little bit different atmosphere where nerves kind of catch up with you a little bit.
“If you miss one shot, you kind of feel like that might be the one to win or lose it and kids start thinking about that stuff.
“They had kind of a different look in their eyes when the game went to overtime,” continued Honeycutt. “I felt pretty confident. It was a great effort and enough of the little things to get it done and little things are what matter.”
The Cyclones (22-6) will host a regional game Saturday night at 7 pm in John Treadway Gymnasium against the Grainger Grizzlies (17-12) who lost in the Region 2-AA consolation game to South Greene by a 47-42 score.