KINGSPORT — Both No. 1-ranked and unbeaten squads stayed that way on Tuesday afternoon as the Area 1-AAA middle school tournament continued at John Sevier Middle School.
T.A. Dugger knocked off Colonial Heights 37-27 as the Lady Jr. Cyclones improved to 20-0 and got an automatic bid to the sectional tournament in Sevierville, while Liberty Bell (21-0) crushed the Junior Cyclones 64-33.
“We didn’t come out with any energy in the first part of the game,” said Lady Cyclones head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “We didn’t come out with enthusiasm and I was not real happy with that. The first part of the game we decided we didn’t want to box anybody out, but we pulled it together and Kelci gave us a little bit of a cushion on some three-point shots.”
TAD opened by allowing the Lady Chargers to dominate the early going and trailed 9-5 after one period. In the second quarter Kelci Marosites hit a pair of threes and the Lady Cyclones outscored Colonial Heights 14-3 to take a 19-12 advantage at halftime.
The Cyclones continued to press the Chargers and turnovers were the end result, with TAD opening a 25- 15 lead going into the final period. In the game, TAD forced 18 turnovers and the fourth quarter saw the second team get some minutes off the bench.
“This win gives us an automatic bid to the sectional tournament in Sevierville,” Honeycutt said. “We want to win the championship here, but we are in the sectional regardless. When we bear down and play defense good things happen for us, but for some reason we have lapses. We can be beaten very easily when we forget to do those things, so I hope this doesn’t carry over to the next round.”
Kayla Marosites led the Cyclones with 12 points for TAD while both Kelci Marosites and Melinda Perry each contributed eight.
Courtney Crussell led all scorers with 19 points for Colonial Heights, which saw their season come to an end.
Liberty Bell’s Lady Jr. Hilltoppers overcame a 15-8 halftime deficit to defeat Unicoi County 43-39 with post Paige Foster’s 15-point effort leading the way. They will take on TAD in the championship on Thursday.
“It’s an inside-out game,” said Lady ‘Toppers coach Melissa Irvin. “Once we realized that and started going inside to Paige, it gave us open looks on the outside and we started hitting some threes. I’m really proud of how we rallied and they just played very hard.”
The competitive phase of this game was over in the second period, when the Junior ‘Toppers went on a 14-0 run and outscored the Junior Cyclones 20-2.
With a 36-16 lead at the break, the second half for head coach Joe McPherson’s squad was icing on the cake.
“We knew that come tournament time people we’re going to try and do things differently against us,” McPherson said. “(TAD) ran a triangle and two to double team our best player, Patrick Good. He’s been our go-to guy and our leader all year long, and I was really pleased with the way he handled it.
“He did a great job of not being selfish and sometimes when they run (that kind) of defense you think you have to shoot all the time, but Patrick gave up his shot and got everyone involved.”
The Cyclones (13-7) trailed by just 16-14 going into the second period when the wheels fell off the wagon and TAD fell under an avalanche of Liberty Bell points.
“One quarter has been the story against them all year,” commented Junior Cyclones head coach Michael McMeans. “We always seem to have a letdown and they have a big quarter against us. Our strategy worked in the first quarter, but after that we didn’t make any shots. You can’t do that against good teams.”
Post Conley Bowers scored 16 points and had seven rebounds as the lone bright spot for TAD. Peyton Wingate had 16 for Liberty Bell, with Good kicking in 11 and Chris Linville scoring 10.
The Cyclones will play the loser of the contest between John Sevier and Greeneville on Thursday at 5 p.m. with a shot at continuing to the sectional round.