By Matt Myers
Near-perfect execution of the three-point basket and turnover-causing defense at midcourt were the hallmarks of the Elizabethton Cyclones’ 68-47 victory over the Happy Valley Warriors Thursday night in round-ball action.
The Betsy freshman (8-4), electrified by a rewarding transition defense with roots in the takeaway department, virtually let the air out of trophy-laden Treadway Gymnasim with tally after tally from beyond the arc in the second half’s first stanza. The result, a 22-6 run that dominated the duration of the third quarter, put the contest out of reach and stood as an enduring testament to the Cyclones’ intermission adjustments.
Cyclone head coach Craig Emmert, the architect of those second-half adjustments, was pleased with his team’s ability to adapt so fruitfully both offensively and defensively against a tough rival opponent.
“At halftime, we talked about really stepping up and starting to deny with our press,” said Emmert after the final horn, “It was great to see the guys buying into that defensive philosophy and causing turnovers in the second half. Our effort on defense really paired up well with our offense’s emphasis on driving and kicking to our guards for open shots, which was something else I stressed in the locker room at halftime. It was just excellent to see the guys come out after halftime and step up in a rivalry game.”
Although the shooting heroics of Elizabethton would become the main story arch in the contest’s latter half, it was the Warriors (1-8) who set the offensive tone of the contest with sound post play from Corey Matherly as well as good shooting from Ethan Barnett.
As the Cyclones struggled to connect near the basket in the early going, a deep corner trey from Barnett — three of the stalwart’s 16 points on the night — coupled with a contested double-pump lay-in down low by Matherly, became highlights in a first half marked by the Warrior’s ability to maintain momentum in the face of a Cyclone shooting game growing in accuracy.
Although Matherly would continue to play well in a big 18-point, 8-board outing for the maroon and white big man. It was the orange and black clad triple-headed scoring attack of Cameron Miller, Caleb Armstrong and forward Tyler Nickles that would come to epitomize winning play in the game’s second half.
Nickles triggered the second half salvos of his 19point barrage by downing a deep three amidst the superior ball movement of the Cyclone spread attack. The trey, the third of four on the night for the frosh standout, signified the beginning of a ’Betsy shooting foray that was nearly flawless in terms of adherence to execution.
Thirteen 3-point baskets, including five from Miller that never came close to catching rim and three from Armstrong, stood as the result of the Cyclones ball movement and solid transition kicking to their aforementioned shooting guards.
The shooting and transition clinic also produced a 63-33 Cyclone lead by the 7:00 mark of the fourth quarter as well as garnered a 16-point night for Miller and 13-point effort for Armstrong.
Late in the game, both sides substituted liberally and the Warriors were able to maintain defensive momentum and close the final margin admirably.