Lady Rangers, Rangers turn back Johnson Co.

Photo by Kristen Luther
Unaka's Rusty Holtsclaw goes up strong in the paint.

By Tim Chambers

   MOUNTAIN CITY-- Not a cloud was in the sky on a cold but clear, beautiful night in downtown Mountain City. But inside Ray Shoun Gymnasium it was absolutely pouring from above.
   Raining down three-point baskets like cats and dogs, the Lady Rangers raced to a 70-41 win over the Lady Longhorns Thursday night.
   "We shot the ball well," said Unaka head coach Kenneth Chambers. "Our shooting was outstanding and all our kids got to play."
   Unaka opened the first quarter with a bang behind the pinpoint shooting from Jessica Osborne. With Osborne accounting for nine points in the period, Unaka held a 23-7 advantage after the first stanza.
   The Rangers jumped out to an 8-0 advantage on two baskets from Julie Roberson and one each from Coty Townsend and Danielle Ensor.
   After an Elena Owens jumper from the corner, the Rangers continued to hammer away with Osborne hitting for two three-point baskets and Renee Ensor accounting for one. April McCloud's layin at the buzzer gave the Longhorns hope, but the Rangers would answer with a flurry.
   Tiffany Babb worked the inside for six points in the second quarter while Renee Ensor and Osborne continued to light it up from beyond the three-point arc.
   Megan Johnson long trey inside two minutes game pushed Unaka out in front 40-18.
   "I tried to step up and give our team a boost," stated Babb. "We were really play good on the offensive end tonight."
   The Longhorns received new life when Billie Hurd nailed a three at the buzzer but the 'Horns still trailed 42-21.
   Unaka continued its excellent play in the third quarter, tossing up 19 points to take a commanding 61-28 lead going in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Sallee Taylor provided the Rangers with some solid play in the period, scoring four points along with three rebounds and two steals. Johnson County's 13 fourth quarter points would close the final margin.
   Renee Ensor paved the way for the Rangers with 18, followed by Osborne with 15 and Babb 10.
   Elena Owens had a nice evening for the Longhorns, tossing in 15 points.
   Rangers 59
   Longhorns 47

   East Tennessee has yet to encounter the mad cow disease in this area. Yet in Mountain City Thursday night, one could find an angry group of steers.
   Behind five three-point bombs on the evening from Ranger guard Cody Collins, Unaka cruised to a 59-47 win over the Johnson County Longhorns at Ray Shoun Gymnasium.
   Unaka started the game like a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred sprinting out of the gates for a 20-11 lead after one. Collins accounted for 11 points in the quarter, with nine coming via the three-pointer.
   "I have been working harder on my shooting," said Collins. "I want to help our team be ready tournament time."
   Unaka up the advantage to 28-17 on a three by Collins and a jumper by Rusty Chambers, but the Longhorns fought back to pull within six at intermission. Two baskets by Judd Shoun and a putback by Justin Genaille gave the Longhorn faithful hope to start the third.
   Chambers found the mark in the third quarter, tossing in seven while the Rangers defense held the Longhorns to eight points with their full-court pressure defense. The lead was 12 heading into the final period.
   Goals by Tyler McCann, Rusty Holtsclaw and Josh Jones pushed the lead 48-35 inside two minutes of the final quarter. A long three by Collins, followed by a steal and layup from Chambers, gave Unaka a 19-point cushion 56-37 with 3:58 to go.
   Shoun and Chase Reeves traded hoops before Johnson County reeled off 10 consecutive points to close the final margin.
   Collins led all scorers with 22 while Chambers and Holtsclaw tossed in 13 and 11, respectively.
   Shoun topped the Horns with 13, followed by Jon Stout and Genaille with 10 each.
   "It's a win," said Ranger head coach Donald Ensor. "We have lost complete focus on this team. We need to make basketball priority in this stretch run. It's time for our kids to step up and play the way they are capable. You got to come ready to play anytime you take the floor."