By Matt Hill
Cameron Miller’s contribution to the Elizabethton High School freshman boys basketball team couldn’t be measured on Thursday night by how many points he scored, but rather how three big plays he made in the last two minutes of the first half carried the Cyclones the rest of the night.
In a brief span at the end of the half, Miller had a block, a steal and a huge 3-pointer that blew the contest wide open and helped lead the Cyclones to a 67-50 victory over the Warriors at Bayless Gym.
After the Cyclones rode the hot hand of Caleb Armstrong early en route to a game-high 28 points, Elizabethton had to hold off the play of Corey Matherly and Ethan Barnett as the Warriors were on the verge of getting back into the contest.
Miller stepped in and made three huge plays in the final two minutes of the half that set the tone for the second half.
The defensive effort Miller showed was just part of a total team effort by Cyclones, and the Warriors were held in check for most of the contest.
The Cyclone zone gave Happy Valley fits, but it was Miller who came through with the huge block and steal — and he pulled off the hat trick with a big trey to close the half out.
Elizabethton led 36-20 at halftime, and when Rashard Harrington hit back to back three-pointers the score was 62-36.
Elizabethton head coach Craig Emmert felt Miller gave the Cyclones the spark they needed to pull away in the second half.
“Cameron is a big hustler and when we have people in the right spots and everybody’s running and going, we are able to create offense through turnovers,” he said. “That creates excitement and when we’re getting turnovers we’re scoring well.”
While Happy Valley is a big, physical team, Elizabethton does most of its work from the outside — and led by Armstong’s four-three pointers, the Cyclones finished with eight from beyond the arc.
The Cyclones were very balanced and almost everyone contributed to the 16-6 spurt to begin the half. When Hunter Hodges and Gabe Bennett closed out that spurt with back-to-back buckets, the Cyclones had shown just how important the momentum Miller provided at the end of the half was to the team.
Emmert emphasized just how big it was to not let the Warriors back into the game.
“The first three minutes of the third quarter is the most important,” Emmert said. “There you send a message and set the tempo for the second half. The lead was up to 26 points in the next two minutes. We had a comfortable lead and everyone was able to play.”
The Warriors did make a very strong effort at the end of the game with Brandon Young, Travis Overdorf, Zach Hyder and Chaz McCraken all helping the Warriors.
Matherly led the Warrior attack with 22, followed by Ethan Barnett with 16.
The Cyclones took round one in the for bragging rights between two schools that share the same city. The Warriors and Cyclones compete in the main event tonight at Treadway Gym.