University High awaits the Rangers

The University High Junior Bucs have been riding high on their unbeaten pedestal with their 17-0 record as one of only two unbeaten boys squads in all divisions in Tennessee (AA-David Lipscomb).
   Their first big conference game of the season is looming on Tuesday, and the Junior Bucs are not looking to slow down.
   "We are trying to enjoy it game by game," said Junior Buc coach Tony Gordon, "There is a certain amount of luck involved with each game, but the kids have been good about it. We're certainly happy to be in it."
   It's as big of a game for Unaka as it is University High, because it will be a true test for the Rangers as they reach towards a goal of improvement each week and will show where they are in conference play.
   It's also a momentum builder for Unaka, as University High canceled their last contest earlier this year.
   A big key in the game will be the inside match-up between Unaka's Josh Jones and University High's Brandon Bradley. Both teams can light up the three-point situations when needed, so it should be a solid contest.
   But it's hard for Coach Gordon to point out one point of improvement on his club.
   "It's hard to pin-point one, because they are playing good as a team," he said, "They are unselfish and they all step up. I think that's what makes us better this season. We have a lot of balance."
   "Unaka's strength is their press," Gordon said, "We've got to make sure our press offense and press breakers are in place ready to be ran. They are a veteran team and used to being successful. There's a certain mystique about playing them."
   Gordon will need a solid game out of John and Matt Tillman, as well as Danny Quick to overwhelm the Rangers on Tuesday night.
   If any team is as poised to defeat University High in the Watauga Valley Conference this season, you've got to list Unaka high on the list.
   TOUGH TESTS AWAIT FOR CLOUDLAND
   This week, one of the top girls teams in our area will be tested at their level.
   The Cloudland Lady Highlanders are currently posting a 15-1 record with their only loss coming top regional AAA Daniel Boone.
   The record and track record appear to be on the side of the blue and gold, but this week they face two back-to-back tests in Unaka and Cosby.
   The seventh ranked 'Landers host Unaka this Friday night in what is sure to be a 32-minute war. Unaka is rolling off of a solid victory over North Greene and have been getting solid team efforts each week.
   The Lady Rangers are one of the most under-rated teams in this area, and will be gunning for some respect and a conference crown.
   Youth has proven itself to not be a factor for Unaka as each of the stellar sophomores can bring their 'A-game' on any given night.
   After the Unaka game, Cloudland will face sixth-ranked Cosby in what should be a serious test. Unaka and Cosby have split thus far in the season and it will be a tough test for the Lady 'Landers at the Nest.
   Cloudland will need another strong performance this week out of Amy Storie, who showed her inside dominance a few weeks ago at the Watauga Christmas Classic, where she set the record for most boards.
   Both games will be very tough for Coach Matt Birchfield and his talented squad, but it will provide a sneak peek for what lies ahead this season in Roan Mountain.
   RANKINGS NOT SUFFICIENT FOR CYCLONES
   A pair of the top state rankings for AA were recently released with the AP poll ranking Elizabethton seventh, and the prestigious GoMab poll on CoachT.com ranking the orange and black twelfth.
   Elizabethton has lost three games this season, each loss coming after missing one of their key offensive players with Walter Brown missing the losses to Science Hill and Wheeler, GA while Vince Redd missed their loss to Clinton.
   It should serve as motivation for the Cyclones, as they are aiming high this season having the district and regional tournaments at home, giving them full momentum going into a possible state tournament berth.
   BOYS PLAYER OF THE WEEK (1/8-1/19): JUDD SHOUN, JOHNSON COUNTY
   Shoun put up 19 points in Johnson County's win over Sullivan North and had 11 against Cloudland. The point guard has been solid all season long, and should be a tough asset for the 'Horns the remainder of this season.
   GIRLS PLAYER OF THE WEEK (1/8-1/19): RIKKI BAUGHMAN, ELIZABETHTON
   Baughman lit it up with 12 points against North Greene, 23 against Sullivan Central, and had 18 against Johnson County in a stellar week of games. The stellar sophomore has been lighting it up each week.
   GAMES OF THE WEEK
   BOYS: VOLUNTEER AT ELIZABETHTON
   The Cyclones will be ready for another big conference test on Wednesday as they take on the Falcons. ELIZABETHTON 76-58
   JOHNSON COUNTY AT SULLIVAN CENTRAL
   Johnson County got ousted the last time these two squads met, but it's doubtful things will be any different. CENTRAL 73-60
   GIRLS: JOHNSON COUNTY AT HAPPY VALLEY
   It will be a big conference win for the Lady Warriors this week, unless the Lady 'Horns can pull out some magic. HAPPY VALLEY 45-39
   ELIZABETHTON AT UNICOI COUNTY
   This will really be the deciding contest in Watauga Conference play this season. Elizabethton could poise a serious threat to the Lady Devils. UNICOI COUNTY 44-39