Jr. Warriors edge 'Landers for crown

By Marvin Birchfield

STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The Jr. Warriors scored their second consecutive district tournament championship as they defeated Cloudland by a slim margin of 32-31 on Thursday night at Snavely Gym.
   Happy Valley trailed nearly the entire way, but a fourth-quarter rally from the Warriors propelled them past the Highlanders in the final minute and a half of the contest.
   "It's been like this all year long. When we've come down to crunch time, we have stepped it up, but we need to learn to play with that intensity all the time," said Jr. Warrior coach Rik Anderson.
   The Warriors grabbed the early lead in the first period after Francisco Borquez hit Tony Carr with a pass underneath for the score.
   Cloudland responded to tie the contest 6-6 at the end of the first when Cody Hughes made the assist to Jonathan Tolley on the inside.
   The 'Landers went on an 11-4 run to start the second quarter, as Dustin Calhoun nailed a three-pointer and made a drive inside the paint to put Cloudland up 17-10 with 1:15 left in the half.
   "I thought Cloudland did a good job and played hard. They really took it to us there for a while, but we were fortunate to make some big shots down the stretch," said Anderson.
   Larry Creed hit three out of four free-throws in the final minute to pull Happy Valley back within four, as they trailed 17-13 at the break.
   Cloudland maintained its advantage throughout the third period, but was never able increase the lead to more than five points.
   A three-point shot from Brandon Whitehead with 13.7 seconds left brought the Warriors within two, but a technical foul by Happy Valley enabled the 'Landers to acquire a 25-21 lead heading into the final quarter.
   It looked dismal for the Warriors in the first three minutes of the fourth period, as they didn't seem to have the offensive fire power to make a come back.
   But in the last three minutes of the quarter, the Warrior defense stepped it up and their offense found its mark.
   It started with a pass from Logan Loveless to Whitehead, who made a cut streaking down inside the paint.
   Whitehead answered again with a three-point shot, which gave the Warriors their first lead since the opening quarter with 1:32 left.
   Whitehead received the honor of being named the tournament's MVP, as he proved why by answering the challenge in the last crucial minutes of the contest.
   "We made a few mistakes on defense, and they hit some shots outside, but that didn't beat us. We didn't rotate well in our defense," said Jr. 'Landers coach Mike Lunsford.
   Despite hitting just 2-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final minute, the Warriors were still able to hold off the 'Landers in the final seconds.
   Cloudland went 2-of-8 from the foul-line in the last quarter of play, which proved to be fatal, as the 'Landers were 6-22 for the game.
   "We took some not-so-smart shots, plus we didn't hit our foul shots and it came down to that, but normally we're pretty good from the line. We just had too much adrenaline," said Lunsford.