Lady Highlanders knock off Unaka

By Matt Hill

   The song "mmmmmbop" wasn't played at Snavely Gym Friday night, but it should have. That's because Hanson put on a spectacular performance.
   Cloudland guard Tara Hanson scored 10 third quarter points, as the Lady 'Landers broke open a close game to defeat Unaka 68-37.
   The Lady 'Landers were only ahead 29-19 going into the break, but the second half was all Cloudland.
   Hanson came out in the second half on fire, hitting three baskets in the first four minutes. Cloudland was ahead 42-24 by the four-minute mark of the third quarter, and the Lady 'Landers cruised the rest of the way.
   Hanson finished the game with 12 points after scoring only two in the first two stanzas.
   "I couldn't hit anything in the first half," Hanson said. "I just quit thinking about it in the third quarter. I knew we needed some points, so I did it."
   The Lady Landers outscored Unaka 22-7 in the third quarter to take a 51-26 lead going into the final frame.
   Taukia Hughes also stepped up in third quarter for Cloudland, as she scored six of her game-high 16 in that stanza.
   "Our leader Taukia stepped up, and was a player tonight," Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. "We've got to ride her and Tara both."
   Cloudland had a balance scoring effort all the way around on this night.
   A player that came off the bench to have a strong game was Stachia Johnson. She finished with 12 points.
   "We got some good help off the bench," Birchfield said. "Stachia came in and made some big baskets, and we've got to have that to get down the road."
   Post player Amy Storie had a nice first half for Cloudland, as she scored 11 of her 13 points in the first 16 minutes.
   The fans were out in full force, as Snavely Gym was filled to capacity. But Hughes said the Lady 'Landers were prepared.
   "We knew that we had to come here and play good," Hughes said. "It's a hard place to play at with the crowd, and we knew everybody in the county was going to be here. We were nervous, but we came out and played really hard.
   The Lady Rangers did keep it close for a half, as Cloudland was only ahead 22-17 with 2:39 to go before halftime.
   Unaka assistant coach Mike Hardin thought the young Lady Rangers played well in the first half before running out of gas.
   "First half we played hard," Hardin said. "We stayed in the ball game, and did pretty much what we wanted to do. In the second half we got a little tired, and got a little down on ourselves. They went on a little run, and I think that fed the fire for them a little bit and gave them a little momentum. When they got the momentum, we could never get it stopped."
   Hardin believes this game is another learning experience for a talented Lady Ranger squad that probably has some bright days ahead.
   "Talent wise, I think we can play with just about anybody," Hardin said. "But it's going to take a little more seasoning."
   Heather Taylor led the Lady Rangers with 12 points, while Coty Townsend, Danielle Ensor and Julie Roberson each scored seven for Unaka.