Unaka cuts down Cosby

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   The score of the Unaka Rangers-Cosby Eagles game Tuesday night was similar to a contest the boys from Stoney Creek played the night before, but the results were as different as chocolate and butter pecan ice cream.
   The Rangers had little trouble with one of the state's top Class A programs, as they defeated the Eagles 72-54 at Snavely Gym.
   Unaka lost to Johnson County 72-51 Monday night in Mountain City, so the Rangers were fired up to avenge their loss.
   And Unaka post Ben Cole knew just what the team needed to do.
   "Number one was defense," Cole said. "(Monday) night we didn't shoot the ball well at all, but we didn't come out and play defense well, either. When we're not shooting the ball well, we're going to have to come out and play defense and shut teams down. The ball is going to go in for us, we're good enough to score. We just have to come out and play defense, and we did that tonight."
   Unaka's defense set the tone early, as the Rangers held Cosby to two first quarter field goals. The Rangers used their defense to set up the offense, and Unaka raced out to an 18-4 advantage after eight minutes of play.
   It seemed like Unaka came out and totally forgot about the Johnson County game, something that didn't shock Unaka head coach Donald Ensor.
   "That didn't surprise me," Ensor said. "They're capable of doing that. They're capable of playing like that every night. We're trying to find that consistency. They came out a whole lot more defensive minded tonight, which is the way they need to play.
   "Some nights the shots are going to go, and some nights they're not, and we talked before the game that you've got to be a good basketball team even when the shots are not going in. That means rebounding, hustling and defending. They brought that tonight, and beat a good basketball team."
   After the first quarter, Unaka kept its lead in double digits the rest of they way. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Ranger edge was 25 points.
   Cosby had no answer for Cole in this one. He led the Rangers with 23 points on the night, and dominated inside.
   "I was getting a lot of screens and a lot of good passes," Cole said. "My teammates were just getting me the ball, and I was trying to get some offensive rebounds and putbacks. It just felt good."
   Ensor thought Cole came up big Tuesday night.
   "He played well. But of course he's capable of that. He was on the boards tonight a lot better. He just played better, especially after last night's loss. He came back ready to play."
   Unaka lost to Cosby when it made the trip to the small Cocke County school last month, and the man that hurt the Rangers on that night was Mark McGaha.
   McGaha scored 29 in that contest, but only tallied six points on Tuesday. Ensor thought he was still a threat.
   "He's a good player," Ensor said. "That may be deceiving. He broke us down a little bit tonight. He created some open looks for (Kent Black) and he nailed four threes. But we did a much better job on him tonight.
   Black hit all four of his three's in second quarter en route to scoring 20 points for the Eagles.
   Aaron Dugger was right behind Cole in the scoring column with 22, while Dustin Collins added 11 for Unaka.
   Sophomore Rusty Chambers also had a nice night, as he netted eight for the Rangers.
   It was a definitely a different outcome for the Rangers, and Cole said the team was ready.
   "We were really ready to come out and play because after (Monday) night were kind of embarrassed," Cole said. "We know we're a lot better than what we showed (Monday) night. I just thought we came out and played real good tonight."
   The Rangers will be back on the court Friday night in a tough Watauga Valley Conference contest with North Greene.
   Girls
   Unaka 65
   Cosby 45
   Cosby was hitting on all cylinders in this one, as it led 59-24 after three quarters.
   "We started out slow, and I think that hurt us," Unaka head coach Kenneth Chambers said. "We played hard, and that's what our goal was."
   The Lady Rangers showed signs of promise in the fourth quarter, outscoring Cosby 21-6 in the final frame.
   The Lady Rangers were propelled in the fourth quarter by junior Amanda Henderson. She netted 12 of her 14 in the last eight minutes.
   "Amanda is the only junior we have playing with us," Chambers said. "She's really taken it on her shoulders to try and be a leader. You won't find anybody that has a bigger heart. She's going to give you all she's got."
   Jules Jenkins topped Cosby with 20. Coty Townsend had nine for Unaka.
   JV Boys
   Unaka 68
   Cosby 57
   Unaka's B-team avenged last month's 84-28 defeat to Cosby in big fashion.
   Rusty Chambers led Unaka with 24, while Josh Jones and Cody Collins poured in 12 and 10, respectively.