The fifth-seeded Elizabethton girls, proving once and for all that it’s not how you start but how you finish, continued their late-season flip-flop, shocking top-seeded Sullivan Central for the second time in a week with a thorough 53-34 whipping.
And in the nightcap, Sullivan South’s fourth-seeded boys outfought top seed Johnson County to claim a 58-50 decision.
Both winners gained a first-round Region 1-AA home game after playing for their respective district championships at the beginning of the week.
Monday night’s schedule calls for the girls to play their consolation game at 6 p.m., to be followed by Elizabethton against South in the 7:30 final. The Lady Rebels dominated Unicoi County 71-54 to advance to the final.
The boys will follow the same schedule on Tuesday, South meeting Elizabethton in the title game at 7:30.
View the photo gallery from Saturday’s games
LADY CYCLONES LEVEL COUGARS
“The first of the year and the middle of the year was tough, a grind, but the girls kept doing what we were asking and now it’s paying off,” Elizabethton coach Lucas Andrews said. “It’s a credit to these kids for keeping their heads straight and pushing through it.”
It also helps having Kaitlin Bailey suddenly available.
A 6-foot-1 junior transfer from Unicoi County who just became eligible in the last few weeks, Bailey scored every which way she could and netted 18 of her game-high 25 points after halftime, breaking open a 20-20 game at intermission.
Bailey scored five buckets, including a 3-point jumper, and Morgan Headrick and Cheyenne VanHuss both hit bombs beyond the arc, as Elizabethton moved out to a 37-29 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
The Cyclones pulled away in the final period, outscoring Central 16-5.
Peyton Sams scored 10 points to pace Central, which must take to the highway for its first-round Region 1-AA game despite winning the Three Rivers Conference regular-season title with an 11-1 record.
SOUTH BOYS GET IT DONE
The Rebels (21-10) gutted out a victory over the regular-season Three Rivers co-champion Longhorns (25-5).
Johnson County had beaten South in both prior meetings this season, but this time the Rebels made the plays when it absolutely mattered most.
“We just competed as hard as we could, all night long,” said South coach Michael McMeans. “My kids gave everything they had on every possession and they had to in order to win this game.
“They bought into a total team effort and that’s what it was. We were great defensively — we rotated so well — and we rebounded the ball really good. It was just a total team effort and I couldn’t be prouder of my team. A great, great victory for Sullivan South basketball.”
Gavin Parker’s 3-point jumper at the first-half buzzer gave South a 20-19 lead at intermission, and the Rebels inched away from there.
A 3-point bomb by Nick Ellege and a hard-charging drive by Chase Bowery gave South a little breathing room and provided the Rebels with their biggest lead at 44-34 with right at five minutes left in the game. Bowery scored 12 points to pace the winners, who got 11 apiece from Ben Diamond and Cole Layne.
Johnson County (25-5), which must travel to open region play, got 22 points from Blake Atwood.