Dugger burns Tabernacle for 40 points

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT

  
The "Grave Digger" is popular in the Big Truck Series. Unaka has its own version, except it is called the "Grave D-U-G-G-E-R".
   Aaron Dugger hit from every possible angle in the Arby's Consolation Final to finish up with 40 points and propel the Unaka Rangers to a 76-58 victory against Tabernacle Baptist from the Bahamas at Viking Hall on Monday.
   The Rangers had a fine supporting cast as Dustin Collins pumped in 14 points, hitting four of six three-point attempts, and Ben Cole contributed with 11.
   Rusty Chambers sparked the Rangers at a crucial point in the fourth quarter, scoring five of his six points in the period.
   The bench work of Chad Lewis, Josh Jones, Cody Collins, and Daniel McInturff allowed the starters an opportunity to take a breather in crucial stages of the game.
   "I'm proud of the way our boys came out and represented our school and our community today," stated head coach Donald Ensor after the contest. "This was Unaka basketball."
   The Rangers came out hot early, as they took the lead after one period of play 16-10 on the heels of two treys from Dugger, and five each from Cole and Collins.
   Tabernacle would not go away easily, as they were within striking distance at the half only down by four, 35-31. Antoinne Thompson had the hot hand for the Falcons, scoring nine in the second quarter.
   Tabernacle came out of the locker room to go on a seven to three run, giving the Falcons their first lead at 42-38 at the 4:20 mark of the third.
   The Rangers then systematically cut away at the lead, as Dugger and Cody Collins hit a pair of back-to-back free throws. Dustin Collins would then drill a three to put Unaka back in front 45-44.
   "When you have the best scorer in the tournament in Aaron Dugger, it just helps free you up for the threes," said Collins on his performance. "You have to step up and hit the big shots to help your team win."
   The Unaka faithful held their breath when Dugger went down with 1:00 showing in the third. Dugger would leave the game for the remainder of the quarter to be checked by the trainer for a twisted ankle.
   Unaka would hold a slim two-point advantage as they entered the fourth period 48-46. Tabernacle would claw their way back to knot the game at 50-50 with 6:38 remaining in the contest.
   That's when Unaka would erupt and put the Falcons away. After a Unaka bucket gave the Rangers a two-point lead, Chambers was hammered by a Falcon on his way to the goal.
   Chambers hit his first free-throw, after which the referee hit the Tabernacle bench with a technical foul. Chambers missed his second foul shot and Dugger would nail both technical free-throws to push the Ranger lead to 57-52.
   On the pursuing inbound play after the technical, Collins would once again step outside the three-point arc and bury another trey, giving the Rangers an eight point lead 60-52.
   "The official could not even tell me what I did to get the technical," stated a visibly shaken head coach Norris Bain. "I was just sitting there and all of a sudden he gives me a technical. I just want for him to tell me why he did it."
   The Rangers then proceeded to outscore the Falcons 16-6 over the final 4:20 of play. The Rangers would outscore Tabernacle 41-27 in the second half of play.
   "I told our seniors they were going to have to step up and lead us today, and they did against a very talented and athletic Tabernacle team," commented Ensor.
   " I didn't know what to expect coming into this tournament, but we went 2-1, which I think is awfully good, and I just want to thank Coach Dale Burns for inviting us to the Arby's and I hope he invites us again next year," added Coach Ensor.
   Dugger felt this game will go a long way in improving the Rangers.
   "It gives us a boost heading into our conference games because we had been in a slump early in the year, and to go 2-1 in the Arby's is definitely a confidence builder," he said.
   Dugger was named to the All-Tournament team after the conclusion of the final game between Ballard and Science Hill.