Unaka freshman team defeats Johnson County

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent
Stepping to the fore after the halftime break, Unaka knocked off Johnson County 50-41 in a freshman basketball game played Monday night at Snavely Gym.
Unaka lost the battle of fundamentals in the first quarter against the visiting Longhorns. The Rangers took bad shots, didn't box out well and committed too many turnovers.
All this added up to eight points for Unaka while the freshmen Longhorns ended the first quarter with 14.   
The Rangers did a better job of attacking the offensive basket and reduced their turnovers in the second quarter, but by halftime they were still at an eight-point deficit, having equaled their first period offensive production of eight points.
However, just before the first half ended Al Hartman's three consecutive steals led a defensive surge that would continue throughout the game for Unaka.
Hartman's hustle and intensity became contagious as the Rangers scored 18 points in the third, 10 of those points the result of steals and layups as the Unaka pressure took a heavy toll on the Longhorns.     
Unaka began the third quarter with a different defensive attitude, and parlayed several turnovers into 18 third-quarter points, highlighted by Andrew Church's three with nine seconds remaining.
The Rangers scored 12 of the 18 via the lay-up, one of those a brilliant, spinning move to the basket by Brandon Roper. 
"We had a little talk at halftime about reducing turnovers on our end while handling the ball better and scoring points off their turnovers," stated Unaka coach Larry Bowling. "We also talked about boxing out under the Longhorns basket, because we knew that they had scored six baskets by getting rebounds and making the uncontested putback. We knew we couldn't survive if we kept giving them putback after putback."
"Al Hartman helped us with our defensive intensity with all those first half steals," stated Bowling, "and that seemed to light the fire under the rest of the team." 
The fourth quarter began all tied at 34 each, but the Rangers continued right where they had ended the third.  Chris Buckles hit a short jumper and Adam Buckles drew a charge at the other end.
Church hit another jumper, then came another Johnson County turnover before Chris Buckles drove to the basket, scored and was fouled. Buckles missed the free throw, but was awarded a bonus after a Longhorn was called for a lane violation.
This turn of events gave the Rangers a 43-39 lead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Ultimately, the game would be secured at the charity stripe, where the Rangers were eight of nine in the final two minutes, securing the win.
"It all came down to being able to hit the big free throws," stated Church, who led all scorers with 19 points. 
"Chris hit at the free-throw line, and we did a much better job of ball handling at the end," stated Church, who chipped in 11 points.
The Longhorns were led by Michael Payne with eight points, while Robbie Moody added six.