The Cyclones erased a 12-0 deficit and handed Sullivan South its first Three Rivers Conference boys basketball loss, 65-58 on Tuesday night at Treadway Gym.
Looking to wrap up the outright conference title, South (23-4, 10-1) opened with a hot hand on offense and a quick hand on defense to put Elizabethton into the early hole.
“We just had to calm down and follow the game plan,” Cyclones coach Lucas Honeycutt said. “After the first quarter, we got back into it. I think this is a big confidence-booster after coming back from that early deficit. We’ve had games like this before and I believed that helped us here in this game tonight.”
The second-place Cyclones (11-13, 9-2) still can earn a share of the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the District 1-AA tournament. Both teams have one Three Rivers game to play.
Nico Ashley was the biggest contributor in Elizabethton’s comeback, finishing with a game-high 22 points. Patrick Hughes and William Willocks each scored 14, and Braden Phillips tallied 11.
“I think we had a lot of nerves with us,” Ashley said. “We started to relax and end up with the win. I want to get a feel for the game and want to win no matter what we are doing. This was a big confidence boost for not only myself but the team, too.”
Ben Diamond did all he could for the Rebels, netting a team-high 19 points.
The Rebels forced eight turnovers in the first three minutes and Diamond dropped 11 of his points in the first quarter, but in the second quarter Elizabethton began to climb back into it.
Elizabethton slowed the tempo and started finding its offense. The Rebels, after building a 28-16 lead, managed only six second-quarter points.
“South has some tough players to defend,” Honeycutt said. “We had to make sure to focus on their scorers. We were able to gain some confidence and get right back in the game. Our defense did a great job helping our offense.”
The Cyclones went on a 9-0 run in the second quarter and trailed by just three, but the Rebels made a couple of baskets and led 34-29 at the half.
The Rebels started the second half with two quick buckets for a 38-29 advantage, but Ashley reeled off eight straight points — two 3-pointers and a dunk — to cut the Cyclones’ deficit to one.
The Cyclones finally grabbed their first lead in the fourth and never let it go. They got separation with a 7-0 outburst and pulled out the win.
LADY CYCLONES CRUISE
Everything clicked for Elizabethton’s girls in their 61-27 win.
The Lady Cyclones (16-10, 7-4) positioned themselves for the No. 3 seed in the District 1-AA tournament. Morgan Headrick led Elizabethton with a game-high 14 points. Kaitlin Bailey scored 12 and Lina Lyon tallied eight.
McKenzie Little led South (9-17, 2-9) with 10 points.