Unaka slips past Cosby

By Tim Chambers
STAR Correspondent
Unaka came into Tuesday night's game looking for respect against the Cosby Eagles, one of the top-ranked class A teams in the state. Behind a storming defense and some solid team play the Rangers earned a hard-fought 55-54 win over the Eagles at Snavely Gymnasium.
Cosby jumped out to a 4-0 lead inside the first minute of the game but Unaka fought back behind the shooting of Josh Jones, Rusty Chambers and Josh Lowe to take a 9-4 lead. The Eagles rode the three-point shooting of Kent Black and Dusty Williams to lead 17-15. Cody Collins and Tee Blevins would answer with five free throws to help stake Unaka to a 20-17 advantage at the end of one.
The lead would change hands five times in the second quarter with the score tied at 30-30 with 1:00 remaining. Two free throws by Chambers and buckets from Jones and Tyler McCann pushed the Rangers to a 36-30 lead at halftime.
Unaka went ice cold in the third quarter going nearly seven minutes without a field goal. Lowe's free throw with 1:46 remaining broke the ice. Cosby fared no better as it could muster only two points as the score stood 37-32 at the 1:00 minute mark. Michael Gunter hit for two to edge Cosby within three at 37-34 with 40 seconds remaining but Chambers would answer with a bucket at the 16-second mark, giving Unaka a 39-36 lead at the end of three.
The fourth quarter brought the crowd at Snavely Gym to its feet, with both teams looking like prize fighters who refused to get knocked off their feet. Cline and Chambers pushed the lead to 49-44 but the Eagles refused to die. Fans from both sides stood nearly the entire final eight minutes of this showdown as neither team would give an inch. Black nailed a three to cut the margin at 49-47, then Kevin Hall would score off a rebound to knot the game at 49 all.
Cosby regained the lead at the 57-second mark behind a bucket from Jared King. On the ensuing possession Chambers drove the baseline, drawing a hard foul at the 39-second mark. With the crowd noise at its peak, Chambers hit two free throws to give Unaka at 55-54 lead.
The Eagles worked for the last-second shot but a deflection by Chambers and Collins on a pass inside prevented Cosby from getting off the shot to preserve the win.
Chambers led all scorers with 18 while Jones followed with 14.
Blakely tallied 13 to pace the Eagles while Black was held to 10 on 4-18 shooting from the floor.
"We played much better on the defensive end," stated head coach Donald Ensor. "Our press was much better tonight." "We beat a very good team and our fans deserve a lot of credit."
Chambers and Jones felt like the defense was the key to the win.
"We played much better team ball tonight," said Chambers. "I am extremely proud of all my teammates.
"Tee Blevins, Josh Lowe and Chase Reeves stepped up tonight and played well."
Jones praised the defensive play as well.
"For two weeks we worked our butts off," said Jones. "Now we got to get ready for University High."
Lady Rangers 59
Lady Eagles 57
The Lady Rangers, behind 21 points and 10 steals from Renee Ensor, survived a scare from Cosby to down the Eagles in a tight-fisted affair.
Unaka jumped out to a 17-10 first quarter lead thanks to the play of Ensor and two long three-point shots from Coty Townsend and Jessica Osborne.
The Rangers continued to lead in the second period behind the outstanding efforts of 6-0 sophomore Tiffany Babb. Babb's eight first-half points helped the Rangers to a 31-26 lead at the half.
The third quarter was plagued with turnovers and cold shooting as neither team could find the bucket throughout the period. Osborne's three at the 5:00 mark was the only field goal in the period for the Rangers while Cosby behind the play of Shanna Coggins and Jules Jenkins edged the Eagles within three at 38-35 to start the fourth quarter.
After sitting out most of the first half with an ankle injury, Coggins caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points with some long-range bombing.
The lead changed six times within a two-minute span before a Danielle Ensor bucket put the Rangers up 44-43 at the 5:35 mark.
The Rangers stayed in front thanks to the outstanding play of Renee Ensor, who would account for three steals and eight points in the last two minutes of the game. Ensor's breakaway layup gave Unaka a 57-54 lead with 59 seconds remaining but the Eagles refused to quit.
Coggins would nail a 35-footer with 10 seconds remaining to tie the score at 57. Ensor was fouled with 2.3 seconds remaining as Cosby forgot it had tied the score and appeared to foul intentionally. She sank both free throws as the Rangers escaped with a narrow victory.
Ensor led all scorers, followed by Babb with eight. Townsend and Julie Roberson chipped in with seven, respectively.
Coggins led the Eagles with 21 while Jenkins added 15 and Whitney Hannah tossed in 11 to pace the Eagle attack.
"I'm proud of our team," said head coach Kenneth Chambers. "We could have quit but we refused to give up. Renee played great and Babb gave us some good minutes. We can build on this and get better."
Ensor, about her 10 steals, said: "They would go one way and we kept forcing them to throw the long pass. I'm real proud of our team and my teammates."
The Rangers will play host to University High Friday night in an important Watauga Valley Conference showdown. Expect a capacity crowd at Snavely Gymnasium.