Rival prep basketball teams to bump heads

By Wes Holtsclaw


   "We'll get them back in basketball!"
   That has been the most common phrase found on Stoney Creek when you mention the Cloudland Highlanders.
   In Unaka and Cloudland's first athletic meeting since the contraversial football battle last fall, a packed house is expected at Snavely Gym to see the top two Watauga Valley Conference boys' squads face off and see if Coach Ken Chambers and the Unaka Lady Rangers can shake the 'Lander monkey off their backs.
   Elizabethton also travels to Hampton, while Happy Valley hosts Volunteer in big games for Tuesday's "Rivals' Night."
   Many people are wondering which teams are going to show up in the boys' contest between the Rangers and 'Landers.
   Cloudland has been like a roller-coaster this season, while Unaka has done its best around a very tough schedule.
   The Cloudland-Unaka rivalry has been heated by war of words over many computers in Carter County, as fans from both sides have filled message boards on a statewide sports site, particularly when it relates to the girls' game.
   Unaka came close to beating a solid Cloudland team in the district tourney finals last year, and coach Ken Chambers hasn't beaten the Lady 'Landers in three seasons. That should serve as motivation for the maroon ladies.
   The Cloudland girls are coming off a tough loss to University High, despite playing well against some good teams, and should bring their top game tonight; however, the Lady Rangers will be the heavy favorites on their home court.
   In the boy's side, Unaka has been playing intense ball right now and are in dire need of a strong, happy team game against the 'Landers, while Cloudland will need to take advantage of turnovers and not get into heavy foul trouble in order to come out with a victory.
   The Elizabethton Cyclones boys' squad has seen its share of close games this season.
   When they travel to VanHuss-White Gym tonight, they will probably get the best out of the Hampton Bulldogs when they take the floor.
   Hampton arguably plays tougher against Elizabethton, but still have some young players that may have a hard time matching up in their second meeting of the season.
   Elizabethton's girls team came back to beat Hampton in their first meeting of the season without leading scorer Rikki Baughman.
   It was a tough loss for the Lady Bulldogs to take, but the emergence of some of the Lady Cyclones' younger players led to their late success in that game.
   Last week, Hampton had a tough overall outing against Unicoi County despite trailing by four with under three minutes to go in that game.
   The Lady Bulldogs should play with fire against Elizabethton, as they have a lot to prove in the Watauga Conference and need to gain some serious ground in the standings.
   The Lady Cyclones are the entering favorites with a roster deep of players who can contribute on any given night. Hampton would have to force turnovers and capitalize off them in order to have a chance at victory.
   If the Hampton guys show up like they did against Sullivan Central and Sullivan North, they could easily come out on top against the Cyclones.
   But that's easier said than done against Elizabethton.
   It's a chance for the boys to gain some momentum, while the girls can fetch a needed conference win.
   The Volunteer Falcons are arguably the best team in the Watauga Conference, with a 6-1 conference mark and an overall 12-4 record.
   With two of the league's best players in Chucky Lindholm and Jacob Frazier, and a firey young coach (Todd Whittimore), it's easy to see why the boys' squad is at the top.
   But Happy Valley will be eager to shake them down from the ladder and has a strong team game on any given night.
   The Lady Warriors could use another win in that column in their game tonight against the Lady Falcons, after a tough loss at the hands of the Unicoi County Lady Devils.
   A conference win would put either Happy Valley or Volunteer in sole possession of fifth place for the time being.
   - Daniel Boone takes on both Happy Valley and Cloudland this week in boys' and girls' action. It should be another classic meeting between Coach Bobby Snyder and Coach Charlie Bayless on Thursday, while Cloudland's boys try to seek a win on their home court this Saturday.
   - The Elizabethton Cyclones visit Sullivan Central for a big rematch Friday night. The Cyclones will try to avenge an earlier boys' loss this season, while the girls will be big favorites.
   - Johnson County and Unicoi County meet in Erwin for a big conference battle between the two schools on Friday. The boys' contest should be exciting, as Johnson County has developed a fire to win over the last week.
   The namesake of the Cloudland High School gymnasium, legendary SEC coach with the Auburn Tigers, and Roan Mountain native, Sonny Smith, has a weekly TV show with former Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson that airs at 4 p.m. today on CSS (Comcast Sports Southeast).
   "Talkin' Hoops with Sonny & Wimp" is an entertaining show that features the coaches as they talk about college basketball with fans.
   Smith and Sanderson have a daily radio program in Birmingham, Alabama.