'Landers demolish J. Frank

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   J. Frank White Academy might not be a good indicator of how well the Highlanders match up with upcoming foes North Greene, University High of Johnson City and the much-anticipated game at Unaka next Tuesday.
   But after Monday night's win over Cosby, followed less than 24 hours later by its 73-38 domination of JFW, Cloudland appears poised to make a contentious move toward the conference championship.
   "We were very active on defense," stated Cloudland head coach Ned Smith. "Our offensive production is a direct result of how well our defense is playing."
   It was pretty well indeed, as Cloudland held JFW to four points after one quarter of play. 
   The Knights would fare no better during the second quarter, again scoring only four points.  Meanwhile, Craig Cooke led a hot shooting, very balanced offensive assault on the visitors from Harrogate.
   So, while JFW managed only eight points for the entire first half, Cloudland headed to the home team locker room with five times as many, at 40.
   "I just tried to stress playing team ball from the tip-off until the finish," stated Smith. "We played as a team, and I was very pleased with the hard work on the defensive end."
   Cloudland's 40-point first-half production was one of balance. When the Knights defense doubled post players Robbie Tolley and the slashing Aaron Stocton, Cooke's deadly three-point shooting would take a huge toll on the outmanned Knights.
   Stocton scored 12 points and Tolley finished with 10.
   Mark Byrd scored only two points, a spinning layup early in the game, but Byrd's contributions to Highlander basketball often get lost in the statistics. He dished out four amazing assists during the first half of play, while playing near error-free ball at point guard.
   But more significantly, he caused several turnovers, and turned them into points by his teammates. 
   But the key to this year's Cloudland basketball is balance. The 'Landers run a great inside-out offense this season, and swarm on defense, appearing more willing to press from start to finish.
   Tolley and Stocton are still deadly from 12 feet in.   
   The Highlanders have played and won twice already this week, and still have two key conference challenges before the showdown on Stoney Creek next Tuesday.
   Lady Highlanders 70
   Lady Knights 23
   It was no contest.
   The Lady Highlanders were simply better at every position, and even after clearing their bench early in the first half the 'Landers were still better position by position.
   The final score of 70 -23 could have been so much worse for the Lady Knights, but for a great deal of substituting, not to mention some very good sportsmanship on behalf of the Highlanders.
   Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield was very pleased with the effort of his players.
   "We got after them on defense, and were able to use a lot of players," he said, "and that's what any coach would like to be able to do, especially with the schedule we have remaining this and next week.  We were a more talented team, but this gave us a chance to look at some players we'll be needing down the road.
   "Jessica Davis is playing very well. She is a player we feel that we'll need big contributions from as the season wears on, and as we head into tournament play."
   Cloudland's Crystal Arnold led all scorers with 14 points, followed by Davis with 11, Heather Banner and Rebecca Clawson tallied 10 each.