Junior Rangers dispatch Tigers

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Unaka eighth-grade girls outlasted Keenburg in a 39-27 final despite a fourth-quarter rally from the Lady Tigers on Monday night.
   Keenburg trimmed away at a 12-point lead by the Rangers in the final period, but some free throws from Unaka down the stretch helped secure the victory.
   "We didn't exactly play well that well, and that's probably because we haven't practiced a lot lately, and it showed," said Lady Ranger coach Don Parkey.
   The Rangers jumped out to a 9-2 lead after the first period of play, as Jacklyn Campbell led the way with five of her 16 points on the night.
   A field goal by Katie Harrell was all the offense from the Tigers in the first, as the Unaka defense was consistently denying Keenburg from getting a good shot opportunity.
   "We didn't start playing until the third quarter, and after that point they gave all they had," said Lady Tiger coach Amy Harkleroad.
   The Rangers led 17-10 at the half, after a nice cross over dribble from Tera Potter scored, but the Tigers kept Unaka within sight, as Jessica Trivette dropped in six points in the second period.
   Unaka drew away to a 12-point margin at the end of the third period, with Campbell contributing on seven scores and Kayleigh Elsea knocking down a three-point goal.
   A late fourth-quarter spurt by the Tigers closed the Ranger lead to 33-27 with two minutes left, after Natasha Bunten hit a three and Jodi Jones made the putback off the rebound.
   "We can't relax. We're still way too tight, and it looks like we're not running our offensive sets, but it's because we're not getting down the floor and setting up," said Parkey.
   Unaka responded in the final minute with Stephanie Keranon making a steal and taking it in for a score, along with the Rangers adding four points off of free throws.
   "I think Unaka was bigger on the inside, but I don't think we were that outmatched. Katie Harrell did a good job for us down low," said Harkleroad.
   Unaka 55
   Keenburg 27
   Unaka had little trouble in disposing of Keenburg, cruising to a 55-27 final with the help of strong guard play.
   "Scoring gets us into our press, and getting the some turnovers and easy baskets helped us get a big lead from the start," said Unaka coach Mark Revis.
   The Rangers stormed to a 19-2 lead in the first quarter, as Kyle Wilson and Brandon Roper scored six points apiece in the opening period.
   Keenburg was 2-6 from the free-throw line with Jordan Lambert and Josh Hardin both hitting 1-of-2 tries for the Tigers' two scores.
   "I kept preaching to my boys that we had to come out with our best game and we didn't. Instead we came out flat and it took us a quarter to just get going," said Keenburg coach Scott Heaton.
   Unaka enjoyed a 20-point lead at the half after receiving some offense from Joey Sheets, and continued to increase their lead to 47-15 by the end of the third period.
   "We did a good job of getting the ball up and down the floor, and I thought Joey Sheets played the best he has all year," said Revis.
   The Rangers were led by Sheets with in 16 points in the game, along with Wilson, who added 10 scores.
   Daniel Gardner and Josh Hardin paced the Tigers, as they both had seven points apiece.
   "I think they had it in their head that they were beat before we ever played, but I don't think we could have beat them even if we had played good, but it wouldn't be as bad," said Heaton.