Lady Junior Warriors top Cloudland for large-school crown

By Marvin Birchfield

   It was the Jr. Lady Warriors taking the top spot in the District Tournament after over coming the first-quarter jitters and defeating the Cloudland girls in a 37-29 large school final at Snavely Gym on Thursday night.
   "We've been runner-up for the past two years, and it was time for us to take this one home, and now we've got the opportunity to do so," said Jr. Lady Warrior coach Dana Hill.
   Happy Valley got off to a slow start, as its first bucket didn't come until 30 seconds left in the first period.
   A pass from Emily Good to Samantha Carter down court with the bucket and a foul produced the first points for the Warriors.
   "I think we came out a little nervous and tight, but these girls came to play tonight and have worked hard all summer long and throughout the fall," said Hill.
   The 'Landers went 6-8 from the free-throw line to grab a 6-3 advantage, as Jessica Mathes hit 4-6 and Stachia Saults was 2-2.
   The contest was tied at 10-10 with 2:22 left in the half, but a 6-2 run by Happy Valley in the closing minutes gave them a slim lead of 16-12 at the break.
   Another spurt came for the Warriors in the third period after Carter nailed a three-pointer and Hanna Banks followed her shot for the deuce.
   The 'Landers trimmed the Warrior lead down to six with 15 seconds left as Duranda Byrd made a steal and pass to Santana Clawson on the break.
   A big three-point shot from Chelsi Whitlock with time expiring gave Happy Valley a 28-19 advantage at the end of the third period.
   The Warriors continued to hold on to their lead in the final period of play, as their defensive full-court press took its toll on Cloudland's guard play.
   "Happy Valley is a well-coached team and do very few things to beat themselves, and when you play a team like them you can't afford to do the things that will get you beat," said Lady Jr. 'Landers coach Randy Birchfield.
   The 'Landers had trouble throughout the contest adjusting to the pressure from the Warriors, as mistakes and turnovers plagued them all game long.
   "Both teams played hard and hit the boards well, but the biggest difference in the game is we turned the ball over," said Birchfield.
   Hanna Banks was named tournament MVP, as she led the Warriors by pouring in 12 points on the night.