'Landers tumble UH in OT

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   In a game that was close for a full four quarters, it was only fitting that the overtime action follow suit, with Cloudland and University High battling each other from behind the free-throw line and playing leapfrog with the lead.
   Cody Jones made the difference for the Highlanders, sinking a crucial three-point goal with mere seconds on the clock to break the trend in a 64-61 Cloudland overtime win.
   "Both teams fought hard to the end," said University head coach Tony Gordon. "You can't do much about a kid making a big shot. He stepped up in the end, and it took a lot of courage to take that shot, and I think we showed a lot of courage knocking down free throws. That one could have gone either way."
   After John Tillman carried the Jr. Bucs to a 5-2 lead, Robbie Tolley boosted the Highlanders with an eight-point first quarter, while Craig Cooke and Jacob Hughes kept the score rolling with a trey apiece. Tillman matched Tolley's first quarter scoring with eight, ending the frame with the Highlanders ahead by two, with 16 points.
   In the second quarter, the court was a struggle for the upper hand. Jon Pritchard gave the 'Landers the 18-14 lead, but scoring from University's Morgan Woodacre, Tom Gemmer, and Matt Conley snatched it back, 20-18. Pritchard sunk two more, only to have Ryan Collins tie the game at 22 with two courtesy baskets. The battle continued until the halftime buzzer, where the scores settled to yet another tie, at 29 points.
   A seven-point Cloudland scoring run seemed to be the change that would take the balance off the scoreboard, and the Highlander fans seemed to breathe a little more easily after a jumper and reverse layup from Mark Byrd to make the score 44-37, the first time either team drew more than five ahead.
   The table turned in the fourth quarter, as University made a 10-point run halfway through the frame, to tie the game at 49 with 2:37 to go. A technical foul put Conley behind the free-throw line for the Jr. Bucs, as he was successful on both shots.
   Another penalty basket from Mike Tyson put UH in a 52-49 lead, with less than two minutes to go. The teams swapped fouls once more, and Byrd and Conley both scored two each. Jones foreshadowed events to come when he sunk a three-pointer to tie the game at 54.
   Another pair of foul shots resulted in two 'Lander points from Tolley, and two University points from Tillman. With 45 seconds to go, Byrd ran the clock down to six seconds before taking the plunge inside the paint. His shot bounced around the rim, and gave in to gravity, falling away from the goal, only to be pushed back up by Aaron Stocton. Displaying unrelenting stubbornness, the ball bounced out again, launching the game into overtime.
   Tolley opened the overtime scoring by putting up a pass from beneath the goal. Collins, for University, and Byrd each took a turn from the stripe, scoring one each, leaving Cloudland ahead by one. Four foul shots from Collins, and two more from Byrd tied the game again with 49 seconds in overtime, sending the crowd into a deafening roar.
   The struggled continued until the clock showed 28 seconds, and the scene on the court replayed itself, as Byrd dribbled past halfcourt, and he and Hughes ran the clock down to eight. However, this time, it wouldn't be Byrd that took the plunge. A scuffle against University's defenders resulted in a pass to Jones in the corner, who made the game-winning three-point goal, leaving the Jr. Bucs only three seconds to fight back in.
   "In three seconds, we knew we could get to halfcourt, and run a halfcourt play," said Gordon. "I thought we got a decent look. Otherwise, we just wanted to be able to react to their penetration."
   The Jr. Buc last-second 3-point attempt bounced off the backboard, leaving the Highlanders with the win.
   "We had so much foul trouble, we just wanted to slow the game down, and hang on to the back of the ball, and take good shots," said Ned Smith, Cloudland's head coach "We wanted to go for the one shot - put it in (Byrd's) hands, spread the floor out, and make something happen. (University) played really well - they shot the ball well, and they're patient on offense. They're well coached."
   In the girls' game, Lady Jr. Buc Dyana Bowens proved to be a thorn in Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield's side. With a three-pointer and two field goals in the first quarter, and three treys in a row in the third, she led University to a 29-16 lead, scoring 18 points in the first half.
   "That was the game of the season," said University High girls' coach Amy Horton. "That was the first game we really put together four great quarters. We're normally a second-half team; this time, we started out on fire."
   Battling out of a 16-5 deficit, Kayla Blevins scored five points in the second quarter for the Lady Highlanders, while Crystal Arnold added another five in the third.
   Bowens left the game early in the final quarter with foul trouble, ending the barrage of three-pointers. The Lady 'Landers made a 9-1 scoring run, courtesy of a rebound goal, a three-pointer, and two free throws by Arnold, and a layup from Jessica Lunsford. The run put Cloudland in a position to catch up, with the score 43-35, but a layup from Jo Thomas and Bowens' return to the game made it difficult.
   Despite a three-point goal from Heather Banner, the Lady Jr. Bucs racked up on foul shots, and took the win at 55-38.
   Arnold led the Cloudland scoring with 12 points, while Bowens scored a game-high 24 points.
   "We didn't play. They came to play, and played really well," said Birchfield. "We didn't do anything to help ourselves, and they put a whooping on us. That's the bottom line. I'm not taking anything from them. They played well, and we didn't."