WVC showdown results in Lady 'Lander triumph

By Wes Holtsclaw

     The Unaka Lady Rangers came in with the ultimate gameplan.
     They took away Cloudland's top two scorers in Tara Hanson and Stachia Johnson, and got Amy Storie in trouble with fouls.
     However, the Lady 'Landers stepped up and got through the first half of action with a 28-23 lead and held on throughout the second half to take a 60-46 win.
     "We had too many turnovers and they outrebounded us," said Unaka coach Ken Chambers. "That's two things we talked about before the game started. We had to control ourself on the turnovers but Cloudland played hard defense.
     "We played hard, and it was a pretty close game up to the end. I can't ask any more of them for playing as hard as they did, we just have to work on our turnovers and rebounding."
     Cloudland opened the contest on a 5-0 run and led by as much as eight in the first quarter. Storie had five quick points, but got two fouls in the first three minutes.
     Kelly Taylor and Julie Roberson was big for Unaka with seven points apiece as the Lady Rangers pounded it inside against the 'Landers without their inside threat.
     However, April Williams and Nicki Webb came up big offensively and defensively, whereas Jessica Lunsford and Jessica McGuire came off the bench with some big points.
     Shooting hurt Unaka bad in the half as it was 7-of-20 from the field to begin the game.
     Renee Ensor and Coty Townsend played solid defense in the half, but Cloudland kept a hold of a five-point lead going into the next two periods.
     "We got in foul trouble early," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield. "Amy (Storie) got a couple of buckets and had to sit out a while. But we held on, and our subs came in and played well. Jessica McGuire and Jess Lunsford made some baskets. Things like that helped us going into halftime."
     Once the second half hit, Cloudland got on a roll. The Lady 'Landers opened on a run behind Hanson and Johnson to take an eleven point lead.
     Townsend and Heather Taylor made some big buckets for the Lady Rangers in the third period, but Cloudland held onto its lead with the 44-33 momentum.
     Unaka battled back and closed into six points behind Roberson and Danielle Ensor, but Holly Blair and Storie pushed it back up for Cloudland.
     Webb and Hanson rattled Unaka late with some big buckets as this season's first contest between Cloudland and Unaka concluded with the 60-46 win in favor of the Lady 'Landers.
     "We came back out and Stachia made some big baskets," Birchfield said. "I thought Nikki Webb played tremendous defense, I'm sure she had seven or eight steals. They kinda took Tara (Hanson) out of the game and Dee'd her up and didn't let her have the ball. The other four girls stepped up and played well, that was important."
     It was the first of a possible four meetings that Cloudland and Unaka could have this season, if last year was any indication. Both coaches saw some good things last night and things they can work with.
     "It's hard to play up here," said Chambers. "We didn't shoot the ball well. We missed a few shots that we usually make. If you're not shooting good, then you are always going to have trouble. We played hard, the girls played their guts out and we just have to go back and regroup."
     Said Birchfield: "I don't think either team will change too much of their gameplan. Unaka may go a little more denying inside. But their match-up man is really good."
     "Unaka played great tonight," he said. "They were tough on us and it was close. It was a lot closer than 14. Unaka shot the ball well but we took away their threes, which helped us. We've just got to keep up with our defense and get some more buckets inside."
     Unaka's Roberson led all scores with 13, while three 'Landers scored 10 apiece (Hanson, Storie, Johnson).
     Cloudland hosts University High on Tuesday, while the Lady Rangers host the Lady Bucs on Friday.