ELIZABETHTON — It has taken a little time and some seasoning, but Elizabethton is finally coming of age.
The senior-dominated Cyclones, who wasted a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against Sullivan East in the teams’ last meeting, kept the foot on the gas this time and beat the Patriots 55-46 for the District 1-AA boys basketball championship at Treadway Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
It was the first district title for the Cyclones since 2003, and it came under first- year coach Lucas Honeycutt.
“I’m very thankful the kids are healthy and they are playing well,” Honeycutt said. “They listen, and we don’t have any problems.”
Elizabethton (22-6) will host Cumberland Gap in Friday’s regional quarterfinal. Sullivan East (24-7), the district’s top-seeded team after an undefeated run through the conference in the regular season, will be at home against Greeneville.
“Elizabethton played great and we played so uptight,” said Patriots coach John Dyer. “We played not to lose, and we’ve been doing that for a while now.”
In the third-place game, Sullivan North blew away Happy Valley 63-38. The Golden Raiders will travel to play Grainger and the Warriors will visit District 2-AA champion Chuckey-Doak.
After a sluggish first half that ended with the Cyclones leading 19-17, Elizabethton took control. The Cyclones opened the third quarter with a 13-4 run for a double-digit lead.
Zeke Clark, who earned tournament most valuable player honors, played a key role throughout the game. He finished with 15 points, four rebounds, eight assists and a pair of steals.
“Zeke is not talked about a lot, but he is tremendous,” Honeycutt said. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Michael Wagner, a 6-foot-9 senior, also came up big for the Cyclones, scoring eight of his 12 points in the third quarter despite the presence of East’s 6-9 post, Jonathan King.
“Coach Honeycutt told me to get in there and said I could score on them,” Wagner said. “And Zeke made great passes. I can’t believe some of those passes. He deserved the MVP.”
East got a powerful 11-point, 17-rebound effort from King. David Casaday added 16 points with six rebounds, and hit four of his team’s nine trey balls.
In the consolation game, Chase Arnold got hot for the Raiders late in the first quarter and that was pretty much it for the Warriors.
Arnold had 11 of his game-high 22 points in the period when the Raiders used a 14-0 run to build a 22-7 lead. North stretched its advantage to 35-17 at halftime, and continued to build it during the third quarter.
Holden Dalton was on target from 3-point land for North, draining five treys and finishing with 15 points.
Josh Price was the lone bright spot for Happy Valley (5-23), totaling 23 points.