Unaka turns away Tri-Cities

By Travis Brown

STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   As tournament time looms on the horizon, the Unaka Rangers continue to improve as they posted a pair of varsity victories against the visiting Eagles of Tri-Cities Christian on Tuesday night.
   In the opener, the Lady Rangers made short work of a determined Eagles squad. Despite strong effort, the Rangers were simply too much to stop, taking home the win 68-34.
   For head coach Ken Chambers, this matchup gave him the opportunity to try new things with his young team.
   "We tried for some different looks tonight," Chambers said. "With Julie (Roberson) sick, we tried to do some other things with the ball."
   The first quarter foreshadowed what was to come for the Lady Eagles, as they fell behind early and could not pull even. At the end of the first period, the Lady Rangers lead 23-10.
   For the remainder of the contest, the Lady Rangers would feature a healthy dose of bench play as 11 of the 12 roster players posted a score.
   Moving to halftime the Lady Rangers extended their lead to 36-16 heading into the locker room. The third quarter would offer some solace for the struggling Eagles as they came to life defensively, holding the Lady Rangers to only nine third-quarter points.
   Although displaying solid defense, they could not capitalize on the pressure, and only managed nine points.
   The Lady Rangers responded to the third quarter let-down with a 23-point effort in the final stanza to close out the 34-point victory.
   Jessica Osborne topped the Lady Rangers in scoring with 11, while Megan Sharpe posted 10 for the Lady Eagles. Danielle Ensor chipped in nine points for Unaka.
   After the contest Chambers remained vigilant about his team and its need to get better as the season progresses.
   "We are going to have to improve on our rebounding," Chambers said. "We shoot the ball OK, but we have to rebound and prevent turnovers."
   In the boys matchup to follow, the program seemed the same, but unlike their female counterparts, the Eagles would have something up their sleeve in the later part of the contest.
   The game began somewhat slowly as the Rangers took the lead midway through the first period, and stretched the advantage out to six at the end of the quarter.
   Rusty Chambers put on a display from the foul line throughout the game, going 13-of-15 from the freestripe and helping to pace the Ranger offense.
   The second quarter saw the Rangers dominate down under the basket as Josh Jones contributed eight points in the second period en route to a 22-point effort. His strong play in the paint helped Unaka solidify a 38-24 halftime advantage.
   The third quarter would start off somewhat stagnate as neither team seemed explosive out of the gate, but the Eagles would soon find a stride.
   What would follow was nothing short of amazing as, the Eagles capitalized on a host of Ranger errors to claw their way back into the contest.
   With just under a minute to play in the third period Tyler Stamper, hit a pair of foul shots to tie the contest at 46. During the entire comeback effort Unaka skipper Donald Ensor refused to call time-out.
   "We established a 20-point lead, and then decided to cruise," Ensor said. "I'm not going to bail them out. We cannot relax in that situation, we are not that good."
   Despite the lapse in concentration, the Rangers would respond in the fourth period. Unaka began the final stanza with a 6-0 run and maintained momentum for the remainder of the game, securing an eight-point victory (66-58) in a contest that contained a lesson.
   With some recent hesitation against Cloudland, and the Eagles, Ensor hopes to have his troops ready for a homestanding matchup against conference rival University High this Friday.
   "We're not taking good enough shots, we're not concentrating and that has resulted in poor shot selection," Ensor said. "We can't play this way against University High."
   Chambers totaled 27 points for the Rangers, with Jones netting 22. Derek Cline added 14.