Cosby, Cloudland engage in Roan Mountain Rumble

By Tim Chambers
STAR Correspondent
The Cloudland Highlander boys basketball team was like Coca-Cola Monday night at Sonny Smith Gymnasium. It was about as close to the real thing as you could get.
Led by the pinpoint shooting of Craig Cooke and the all-around play of Mark Byrd, the Highlanders knocked off the highly-regarded Cosby Eagles 69-59 before a large crowd at Roan Mountain.
"This was our best performance of the year," stated Highlander head coach Ned Smith. "Our defense was excellent tonight. We beat a quality basketball team. I am proud of our team and their accomplishments."
Byrd added: "This was a great win for our program. They have a great team."
Robbie Tolley's jumper put the Highlanders on top to open the game but Cosby answered with five straight points to lead 5-2 early in the first. Aaron Stocton and Mark Byrd answered the call with back to back hoops to push Cloudland in front 6-5.
The 'Landers were dealt a severe blow in the early in the first when Tolley picked up his second foul. Cosby would capitalize on the offensive glass to take a 13-6 lead with 2:00 remaining in the period.
A long three by Jake Hughes cut the margin at 13-9 before Tim Blakely's goal at the buzzer gave the Eagles a 15-9 lead after one.
Cosby cushioned its lead to 18-9 on a three by Kevin Hall and continued to lead by 10 at the 6:00 minute mark. Tolley would go to the bench with his third foul for the Highlanders but a swing of events was about to take place.
Cloudland rallied behind the superb play of Jon Pritchard and Stocton to cut the margin to 22-14.
Cooke entered the game after sitting out the first quarter and began to slice up the Cosby defense with some timely shooting. He accounted for seven point in the period to spark the 'Lander offense. After a steal by Byrd followed by a nice pass to Cooke for a layup, the Highlanders trailed by only 27-23 at intermission.
The third quarter proved to be the turning point of the year for the mighty 'Landers as they outscored the high-flying Eagles 28-16 to take a 51-43 lead after three. Byrd would spark the third-period frenzy with nine points, including a 55-footer at the buzzer to bring the Cloudland faithful to its feet.
Cooke continued to add to his total with seven points in the period. The Highlanders controlled the glass in the period, led by Stocton with six boards.
The Highlanders continued their defensive pressure in the fourth period, forcing Cosby into numerous turnovers while converting turnovers into points. A downtown three by Cody Jones gave the Highlanders a 59-48 lead with 4:10 remaining in the game.
Cosby made a last run, cutting the lead to five after a Kevin Hall three, but Cooke proved to be money in the bank from the foul line with a 9-for-9 performance, including 6-for-6 in the last two minutes to preserve the win.
Cooke tossed in a game high 21 to lead the Highlanders while Byrd followed with 15. Stocton had a marvelous outing with nine points and 14 rebounds to pace the blue and gold.
Tim Blakely and Kevin Hall led the Eagles with 16 each while Dusty Williams added 14.
"I give all the credit to my teammates," said Cooke.
"This can only help us as we get into the heart of our schedule," said Stocton. "We have a lot of tough games ahead of us."
Lady Eagles 47
Lady Highlanders 45
The girls game was a masterpiece from the get go. The Highlanders led for nearly the entire game before falling short to the Eagles 47-45.
The game was a see-saw affair from the outset, with the Highlanders riding the inside play of April Williams and outside shooting of Jessica Lunsford to take command early in the game. The Highlanders took a 10-4 lead with 3:00 remaining on a baseline jumper from Williams and a nice spinmove from Jessica McGuire.
A deuce from Lunsford pushed the lead to six before a Cosby bucket from Shanna Coggins cut the lead to 12-8 after one.
Cloudland continued to add to the lead in the second quarter, thanks to a three-point play by Kala Blevins and some stellar offensive play by Crystal Arnold. Jules Jenkins kept the Eagles close with nine first-half points as Cosby trailed 24-16 at the break.
Lunsford opened the third frame with a bucket followed by a nifty move from McGuire to up the lead to 28-16. Jenkins continued her dominance inside, with eight points in the period including five offensive rebounds to keep Cosby close.
Cosby cut the lead to 35-28 on a drive and layin by Coggins. A three at the buzzer by Cosby's Cheyna Asbell cut the lead to 35-31 to start the final period.
The lead would change hands six times in the final period, with each team holding a slim one-point advantage over the last four minute of the contest. McGuire gave the Highlanders a 42-41 advantage with a nice putback but Cosby refused to go away.
A long bomb by Coggins gave Cosby its biggest lead 45-43 with 42 seconds remaining in the game. Williams would draw a foul, then proceeded to hit 2-of-2 from the line to tie the score at 45-45.
Jenkins silenced the Highlander crowd when she found Keisha Chandler alone for a layup with :05 remaining to give Cosby a 47-45 margin. A last-second desperation three missed its mark and the Eagles escaped with the narrow win.
"We played well in spurts," said Lander head coach Matt Birchfield. "We led most of the game but they hurt us inside. We are getting better with each game."
The Highlanders had to replace the entire starting five from last season with two sophomores, two juniors and one senior.
Williams led the Highlanders with 12 while Lunsford added nine and McGuire and Heather Banner contributed eight each.
Jenkins led all scorers with 21 as Coggins added 12 for the Lady Eagles.
Cloudland will entertain J. Frank White tonight at the friendly confines of Sonny Smith Gymnasium.