The Rebels changed from man-to-man to a straight 2-3 zone defense, which slowed Elizabethton and allowed Michael McMeans’ team to rally for a 57-51 Three Rivers Conference win over the visiting Cyclones.
Elizabethton scorched the nets for 39 points in the opening two periods and led by 10 at the break. The defensive swap curbed the Cyclones’ torrid pace, and they managed only 12 total points in the second half.
“We knew we had to do something because we couldn’t guard them in man,” McMeans said. “It became evident that Nico (Ashley) was going nuts on us in the first half and for whatever reason, we let people cut right in front of us. We knew we had to change something and I got into them pretty bad at halftime. I told them we were going to play zone and stick to it.”
Ashley led all scorers with 21 points, but he had just three in the second half.
Gannon Chase stepped up big time for the Rebels, netting 18 points. Chase hit a dagger of a midrange jumper with 2:58 left to put South up by two possessions, 53-48.
“That was the best game of Gannon’s career and I told him that after the game,” McMeans said. “He absolutely put us on his back and kept us in it in the first half.
“What people won’t recognize that sit in the stands is that we went over three or four of their plays in practice yesterday. He read three of them in the game and cut them off. He was the player of the game for me.”
Arguably one of the biggest shots of the entire game was a 3-pointer by Cooper Johnson — his only bucket of the game and first score in nine quarters — with 5:53 left that put South ahead 46-45.
“I’m sitting on the sidelines screaming at him to shoot it and he wouldn’t,” McMeans said. “He’s a confident kid and he’s capable of making those shots. For whatever reason, he decided to square up and shoot it that time and he made it. We had been waiting on that one the whole game.”
Ben Diamond came through with 16 points for South, hitting a couple of big shots late in the third quarter to cut the deficit to single digits.
Jake Roberts also hit double figures for Elizabethton with 16 points.
POWER POSTS DOMINATE
The Lady Cyclones’ size advantage was too much for the Lady Rebels to overcome in a 53-38 loss to Elizabethton, which finished with 10 blocked shots.
Power posts Kaitlyn Bailey and Morgan Headrick stifled the Lady Rebels nearly every time they went into the paint.
Bailey finished with 11 points and Headrick had five, but Elizabethton’s offensive star was Kaylen Shell, who had a game-high 17. Five of Shell’s points came at the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Lady Cyclones were nursing a 37-30 lead and South had built momentum.
Shell’s 3-pointer from the top of the key and jumper in the lane gave Elizabethton a 42-32 cushion.
“That was huge,” said Lady Cyclones coach Lucas Andrews. “All of those shots were within our offense and big shots. That’s exactly what we want. She was able to knock them down. Most nights I feel like we have a big advantage inside. We’re blessed with kids that are 6-2, 6-3 and 5-11 — and we’re quick. Our defense is strong end on most nights.”
Nicole Troutman led South with 13 points.