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Lady Cyclones deny Cougars District 1-AA tourney crown

Douglas Fritz • Feb 25, 2020 at 1:39 AM

BLUFF CITY — In a basketball game featuring dominating bigs, the two smallest players on the court came up with the game’s most important plays.

Lina Lyon, a 5-foot freshman, delivered a steal and layup late in the fourth quarter and 5-4 junior Torrie Roberts pulled off the same feat a minute later. The Lady Cyclones rode those plays and standout efforts from Morgan Headrick and MVP Kaitlin Bailey to a 59-47 win over Sullivan Central in the District 1-AA girls final Monday night at the Dyer Dome.

It was the first loss all season for the Lady Cougars (28-3) against a team from Tennessee. Elizabethton (20-10) won its second straight district title.

“Our girls believed,” said Lady Cyclones coach Lucas Andrews. “We got them twice last year, and probably should have gotten them at Central this year. But this team just stays together and keeps digging and digging. And they don’t give up on themselves.”

TURNING POINT

With Central trailing 43-42 and holding possession with three minutes left in the game, Lyon stepped in front of a pass back to the perimeter. She beat everybody down the court for the layup and a two-point lead.

See Cheryl Gray’s 📸📸from the games

“I just read it,” Lyon said. “She just threw it, and I was there.”

After Jaelyn West knocked down a 3-pointer for the Lady Cougars, Bailey made a shot to put Elizabethton up 47-45. On the next possession, Roberts authored her theft for a 49-45 lead.

“We run this thing where we have to double-team Abbey (Crawford),” Roberts noted. “When I rotated over, she just threw it to me and I had a wide-open layup.”

Central was unable to recover from the game-changing plays.

Bailey said it was fun to watch the little ones come up big.

“I got so excited because I knew they were going to make the layups,” she said. “That really sealed the lead for us.”

TWEETING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW

Part of the motivation for beating Central came from Twitter, Lyon said.

“They made several tweets about how they were going to win and everything,” she noted. “That just made us really mad and we wanted to come out and beat them.”

Roberts said the team seem to find a new belief in the postseason.

”I feel like every year we always get this boost of confidence at the end of the year, where we’re going to win and we’re better than everyone,” she said. “And we can do it.”

“I’m so grateful for my team because we all played together super well tonight,” said Bailey, who led Elizabethton with 18 points.

Headrick finished with 13 points. Kaylen Shell added 12.

DOUBLE-DOWN ABBEY

The Lady Cyclones didn’t stop Crawford but did slow her thanks to a sea of double-team moves.

“Abbey is a great player,” Andrews said. “She’s going (Division I) for a reason. She’s going to score, but you have limit her some.”

Crawford finished with a team-high 16 points. Peyton Sams added 11.

“We kept fighting and digging back like we have in past,” said Central coach Kristi Walling. “We had them right where we wanted, but made too many mistakes. We got outhustled on the other end. That’s what got us.”

LADY ’HORNS TAKE THIRD

Sadie Stout lit it up in a memorable first-half performance and Johnson County carried the momentum to a 52-46 win over Sullivan East in the third-place game.

Stout hit four treys and totaled 19 points in the first half. She finished with 26 despite having four points taken away on charging calls. Natalie Winters added nine points for Johnson County (23-11).

The Lady Patriots got 15 points from freshman Jenna Hare and 11 from Riley Nelson.

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