Warriors fall short at Sullivan Central

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   BLOUNTVILLE -- Matt Dunford, John LeSueur and Josh Crain combined for 43 points as Sullivan Central topped Happy Valley 66-56 in boys' high school basketball action Tuesday night at the Cougar cage.
   Dunford paced the team with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while LeSueur and Crain each added 14 as the Cougars improved to 10-7 overall and 4-3 in the Watauga Conference.
   "We're trying to get back the way we're capable of playing," said Cougar head coach Tony Vaughn. "I thought the kids responded and we got to play a lot of people. Coach Bayless was short-handed, but any time he's got a team on the floor, they're going to be well-coached and not panic. They came back close and did a good job.
   "I thought our kids played well. They did a good job of breaking our press, but we did a good job of getting back pretty well."
   As Vaughn alluded to, HV was short-handed for the contest with four players either missing or playing sparingly. "(Jason) Tittle was sick," explained Bayless. "I didn't hardly play him in the last half. The (Andrew) Bowman kid, we've been using wasn't in school today, he had pneumonia.
   "Andy Hilton is still hurt and Chris Campbell was out the last game of his suspension. That's no excuse, but I think we played pretty good with what we had."
   The athletic and shooting skills of the Cougars came to the forefront early. Tim Whaley scored on the game's first bucket for Happy Valley, only to be answered by consecutive three-point shots from Matt Hobbs and Crain.
   Sullivan Central continued to build on their advantage, going up by 13 at the half and by 19 right before the end of three quarters. Happy Valley did manage to cut the deficit to seven early in the final period on buckets by Whaley, Lamar Rollins and Adam Smith.
   LeSueur and Crain then returned the favor with baskets to put the Cougars back with a comfortable lead. The Warriors' Ryan Toney and John Bulla knocked down a couple of late jumpers for the final margin.
   Rollins led the Warrior attack with 14 points and 9 boards. Whaley added 13 points plus 5 rebounds, while Smith had 8 and Cannon 6.
   Happy Valley fell to 2-5 in league play and 4-9 overall before tangling with rival Hampton on Friday night. "If we don't shoot better than this, they will run us out of the gym," said Bayless about facing the Bulldogs. "They're a good team, every bit as good as Central."
   In junior varsity boys' action, Bobby Morton scored 18 points and Cody Whitlock had 10 in a 50-43 loss to Central.
   Lady Cougars 58
   Lady Warriors 43
   Lindsay McGrady was a force inside for the Lady Cougars scoring 17 points and mopping up the glass for 11 rebounds in the victory.
   Sullivan Central with the win took over sole possession of first place in the Watauga Conference improving to a 6-1 mark. They also boast an 11-6 record in all games.
   Kandra Roberts led the Lady Warrior effort with 15 points, while Terra Whaley picked up 8 rebounds. Kortney Goulds also had 7 points for HV.
   "The effort was there," said HV head coach Ben Godsey. "We just are lacking in our execution on offense and the aggressiveness we need to score. Our defensive effort was pretty good, we just couldn't score points.
   "I was pleased with our offense breaking the press, we need to learn to attack more. Otherwise, they will press us all season, if we don't score off of it. Our half-court offense did not have good execution at all."
   After Whitney Crowe gave the Lady Warriors a brief 2-1 lead, they played even for the majority of the opening period, before back to back scores by sisters Lauren and Ashley Masoner.
   "We were lucky to be ahead," said Central head coach Gary Surcey. "We were missing the front ends of one and ones and then we committed 25 fouls in the game. We did not play very well until later on."
   Ashley Masoner scored nine for the Lady Cougars, while Lauren Burke and Amber Salley each had seven.
   McGrady started to assert herself in the second quarter before really taking command of the game in the third period was the Cougars built a 20-point lead.
   "We stretched the lead out early in the second half," remarked Surcey. "We felt a little more comfortable once we started taking control. I give them credit, they played really hard. We got out of the press and that ended them getting the transition points on us."
   Once again, the Achilles heel for Happy Valley proved to be shooting as they connected on only 14-of-59 field goals. With the loss, the Lady Warriors dropped to 1-6 in the conference and 3-12 overall.