The Pioneers (15-8) opened on fire, scoring the first 15 points on their way to a 65-44 victory. They held Elizabethton’s Nico Ashley in check and the Cyclones star missed his first five shots.
“We came out really well and that went a long ways in helping us win the game,” Crockett coach Cody Connell said. “I’ve been challenging my guys to win that first three minutes of the game and of the third quarter and I thought they did that pretty well tonight.”
Crockett’s Mack Hensley finished with a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds. Donta Hackler and Dawson Wagner each scored 11.
Ashley finally got Elizabethton on the board with an up-and-under layup with 1:51 left in the first quarter. He finished with a team-best 14 points.
Elizabethton got as close as 29-20 midway through the second quarter, but Crockett used a quick five-point spurt to keep the Cyclones at bay.
Monday’s game started with a 24-second moment of silence before the national anthem to honor the life of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday. Two No. 24 jerseys hung in front of the scorers’ table and Connell wore a No. 24 jersey while patrolling the sideline.
“As many people have posted in the last couple of days about how good (Bryant) was as a basketball player, he had a huge impact on everyone that wasn’t associated with basketball,” Connell noted. “He was a great father and a role model. Basketball lost a legend for sure, but the thing that I tried to tell my guys is that you never know what is going to happen.”
The Cyclones were without point guard Parker Hughes because of illness, and sophomore Bryce VanHuss filled in. Though VanHuss didn’t score, he helped the offense get in a bit of a flow when on the court, Elizabethton coach Lucas Honeycutt noted.
“A 15-0 run is not the way we wanted to start and it takes you out of the rest of the game,” Honeycutt said. “It makes it tough for the other team when you have a big cushion like that. I thought our guys did not respond at all and I called I don’t know how many timeouts in that span to try to get things going in the right direction. … (Bryce) did a good job when he came in and moved the ball pretty well. Point guards are essential to our team and when you have one, you know it. When you don’t have one, you also know it and that’s something we’ll have to explore.”