Elizabethton emerged from a contentious game that turned ugly at times on the floor and in the stands, scoring a close 63-55 victory over Volunteer and advancing to the championship game of the Domino’s Pizza/Dairy Cup/Coca-Cola Classic.
The Lady Cyclones (11-2) will face Morristown East, a 50-33 winner over Johnson County in the other semifinal.
“I’ve learned one thing: I’ll take any kind of win over any kind of loss,” Elizabethton coach Len Dugger said.
A fairly smooth first half hit major roadblocks after intermission. There were 32 fouls called in the second half and two injury stoppages that whipped a small, fairly subdued crowd into a frenzy.
After a few hard fouls, Elizabethton reserve forward Arin Anderson suffered a knee injury when a Shanque Price foul sent Anderson careening into a chair on Elizabethton’s bench. Anderson did not return. Later, Price took an inadvertent blow to the face during the course of a play under the Volunteer basket.
“We never try to hurt anybody on purpose,” Lady Falcons coach Jerry Myers said. “Shanque’s a senior, she doesn’t have that reputation. This stuff happens. I hate that it happened. I hope the girl is OK.”
Price and Anderson hugged after the final buzzer.
“It’s all right,” Anderson said to the Volunteer senior.
“Let’s be straight with it. I mean, some of the fouls were a little hard,” Dugger said. “Players are going to get by with what you let them get by with, boys or girls.
“They’re a physical team,” Dugger said of Volunteer. “They’re a very strong team.”
And once all the hubbub died down, the Lady Falcons mustered a comeback attempt, turning a double-digit deficit into a more manageable 60-55 ballgame. Elizabethton sophomore point guard Kristin Powell played keepaway in the final minute to prevent Volunteer from coming any closer.
The 5-foot Powell finished with 14 points and showed no fear whether it was driving to the hole, fighting taller players for a rebound or drawing a charge on a high-impact collision with Volunteer’s Mykala Porter.
“She’s a tough little competitor,” Dugger said. “She’s all about winning and helping the team and leading the team. For a sophomore, she’s done a really good job.”
Chelsea Bowling came off the bench to lead the Cyclones with 16 points. Kamara Fritz added 14.
Price led all scorers with 17 for Volunteer (3-8), which sputtered offensively with promising freshman Ashley Lindholm in trouble all night.
“Shanque got a little tired and that’s how Ashley got her third foul,” Myers said. “We just put her in for a minute in the first half to give Shanque a rest.”
Elizabethton won the prior meeting by a 65-36 margin at the Happy Valley season-opening tournament.
Morristown East (6-5) held the Lady Longhorns (4-7) to eight field goals during the first semifinal.
Meanwhile, Megan Blaylock and Kayla Orrick fueled the Lady Hurricane offense, scoring 18 and 13 points, respectively.
“We lost our last three before we came up here so we were taking a beating,” East coach Terry Livesay said. “Hopefully this gets our momentum back.
“We kept them in it by fouling them the first half. Because they were fouling, they were trying to play defense. So that’s good.”
Johnson County and Volunteer will play in the third-place game today at 5 p.m. Elizabethton and Morristown East follow in the tourney finals at 6:30.