Cloudland teams battle for conference crowns

In Roan Mountain, most people spend their falls and winters prepping the upcoming football season. This year, the locals have made their way to Smith Gymnasium to see a turnaround and a possible conference crown.
   Either way, the Cloudland Boys and Girls basketball teams have nothing to be worried about. They finally have the backing they deserve.
   This season, both teams are in a race to take their respective conference crowns. The Lady Landers are favorites to win the girls side, while the boys face stiff competition from the boys on Stoney Creek.
   The Cloudland boys team has proven themselves as being one of the best teams the school has seen in a long time, currently harboring a winning record and looking to make some waves in the region.
   The team stands at a good 10-3, suffering losses to Hampton, Happy Valley, and current powerhouse Knox Catholic. The 'Landers are looking at a very tough schedule for this half of the season as they host Webb School of Knoxville, David Crockett, Knox Catholic, and face a war with two battles against area favorite Unaka.
   Catholic ousted the 'Landers by ten points earlier in the season, and currently lead Webb in the East Tennessee private school ranks. Each game will matter to the 'Landers as their possible winning season goes on the line each time they step on the court.
   Ned Smith has proven himself this year as the coach of a team he has had since he started at Cloudland in the JV ranks. Cloudland is a very deep team this year, which is something they have lacked in the past.
   This year, the team's work ethic increased and the talent came with it. A deep, athletic team, Cloudland has experimented with the starting five on several occasions.
   An example of this is Kevin and Kyle Jones, who both spent time working on their game, and has prove n that the extra time can pay off. Caleb Denton, Rick Whitehead, and Brandon Odom have also stepped it up as seniors on this year's squad.
   Mark Byrd, Josh Johnson, and Robbie Tolley have played the roles of dominant underclassmen, helping lead the 'Landers throughout many phases of the season.
   The Cloudland girls are sitting at a respectable 10-5 this far into the season, suffering tough losses from Science Hill, Hampton, Sullivan Central, and Daniel Boone. Regardless of the tight games, the ladies are looking to build en route to a possible district and regional crown.
   The girls face tight games in the next month, as they battle it out with Unaka for the top seed in the conference. Matt Birchfield's team will also see heated rematches with Hampton and Daniel Boone.
   Junior Tara Hanson is leading the ladies this far into the season averaging around 18.7 ppg. for the team, while Amy Storie and Stachia Johnson have stepped it up a notch and are expected to continue their run.
   Senior Taukia Hughes has played the leadership role this year, and taken much of the responsibility on and off the court.
   Several players have put a lot into their play; Holly Blair, Natasha Benfield, and Amanda McKinney are prime examples of this ethic that Cloudland girls basketball has seen throughout the past 12 years.
   It should be an interesting finish for both teams, who tonight travel to North Greene at a 6:00 girls gametime.