ERWIN, TENN. – Destiny is now in the hands of Elizabethton. The Cyclones scored a resounding 63-41 victory over Unicoi County Saturday night in Erwin.
It was a statement win, junior post Conley Bowers said, that currently changes the Three Rivers Conference dynamic.
Elizabethton (13-8, TRC 7-1) now currently controls their own fate for the upcoming district tournament while the Blue Devils fall to 12-11, 6-2.
The Cyclones are tied with Sullivan South with one loss each and the team can clinch a No. 1 seed in the postseason tourney and secure a berth into the region.
“It’s huge,” senior Tyler Nichols said of the victory. “That’s how we want it, the ball in our court. Our conference, anybody can lose. So knowing that is big for us.”
Saturday’s win had an extra bit of importance for Nichols. The Cyclones last won in Erwin in 2013, when Nichols was on the senior-heavy Cyclone team as a sophomore.
“It’s a great feeling,” Nichols added. “This is always a tough place to play.”
Elizabethton jumped out of the gate early with a 14-7 lead at the end of the first and outscored the Blue Devils 21-5 in the second to ultimately lock up the triumph.
“They hit us in the mouth early,” Unicoi County head coach John English said. “And we just sat their and took it. We have to go back and look in the mirror, all of us, and realize we have to play hard an entire game. We also need some of our guys to step up in leadership roles … there’s no more freshman or sophomore on your name. I thought it the second half we saw guys start to pick it up but you can’t take off against a team like Elizabethton.”
Cyclone faithful also saw moments that garnered excitement. Senior Hunter Greene (eight points) drilled a 3-pointer near halfcourt that beat the buzzer toward halftime. Nichols also added a two-handed jam in the third quarter.
Bo Pless led the Cyclones in scoring with 15 points and was joined in double figures by Nichols’ 14.
“We held them to one shot early on,” Elizabethton head coach Lucas Honeycutt said. “Our rebounding was key, we held them to just one shot early on. Conley (Bowers) really stepped up his play down in the paint.”
Bowers added nine points in the win while Austin Cornett, Michael Robinson and Colton Chambers added three apiece. Teve Mushaymamunda, Hayden Townsend and Alex Jones also added two points each.
The Blue Devils were led in double figures by sophomore Dylan Putman with 10 points.
AROUND THE COURT
Both teams enter big contests this week against Sullivan East. The Patriots knocked off Sullivan South last week to give the Rebels their first loss … Unicoi County freshman Clay Simpson made a return to the court after falling hard the night before against Happy Valley … Alex Jones led the Cyclones with three steals.
Tuesday, Jan. 20 – Elizabethton at Sullivan East
Friday, Jan. 23 – Sullivan East at Unicoi County
(Photo Gallery By Adam Campbell | adamcphotogrcaphy.com)