'Rangers clip 'Landers in extra period

Photo By Kristen Luther
Unaka's Rusty Chambers shoot the ball between Cloudland's Robbie Tolley and Aaron Stocton.

By Marvin Birchfield
It was a classic knockdown, dragout fight between Unaka and Cloudland on Tuesday, as the Rangers slipped past the Highlanders in overtime by a 55-54 final at Snavely Gym.
Josh Jones knocked down some key free-throws for Unaka down the stretch, but the 'Landers had two shot opportunities fall short with a chance to win at the buzzer.
"We expected Cloudland to give us a solid effort tonight and that's what they did," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "We did pretty good with stopping them from converting on offense at the end, but we still need to know what having a critical possession means."
Unaka took control of the contest at the start of the first period when Rusty Chambers nailed a three-pointer to give the Rangers an early 9-3 advantage.
Cloudland responded by going on a 16-2 run in the final four minutes of the first quarter.
A foul-line jumper from Aaron Stocton gave the 'Landers a two-point lead, and two three-point goals from Craig Cooke increased the advantage to 19-11 by the end of the period.
Cloudland controlled most of the tempo during the second quarter, as Robbie Tolley hit a turn around jumper with under five minutes left in the half holding onto a 10-point lead.
"Tolley does a good job for them inside and Byrd does great at running the team offensive scheme," said Ensor. "We did pretty well at adjusting to the box-in-one defense for it staggered us at first."
In the final minutes of the half, the Rangers stepped up their defense and knocked down a couple of big shots.
Unaka scored the last 12 points of the half to sneak away with a 28-27 lead at the half, after Cody Collins knocked down a three with just a few seconds left on the clock.
The 'Landers came out trying to get back the momentum they had lost at the end of the first-half.
A drive by Mark Byrd gave Cloudland a one-point advantage, but Unaka struck back by nailing a couple of outside shots from the corner coming from Derek Cline and Collins.
The Rangers wasn't able to make the break away, as Cloudland made a rally at the end of the period.
A big quarter from Tolley down-low led to the game high scoring of 22 points on the night.
At the other end it was Chambers on the offensive side by pouring in 19 points total.
"We started playing tough half-court defense and started bringing the pressure," said Chambers. "We need to start matching up a little better in our big games and rebound the ball better."
A three-point goal by Chambers gave the Rangers a two-point lead with two minutes left in the third period, but Cloudland came back with baskets coming inside from Tolley grabbing a 46-43 lead heading into the fourth.
"We knew this would be a game of runs, and for a long time we swapped baskets back and forth," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "I thought both Tolley and Stocton did a great job down in the post."
Unaka managed to work its way back into the lead in the final minutes of the fourth period.
Two free throws by Jones gave the Rangers a 52-50 lead with, leaving the 'Landers in desperation of making a play.
A couple of wing players sent in motion enabled the 'Landers the opportunity they were looking for with a pass from Byrd into Tolley.
A shot inside the paint by Tolley sent the game into over-time, which wouldn't be settled until the final tick of the clock.
Byrd captured an early score for Cloudland with a drive inside, but this was all the offense the 'Landers posted.
Jones went to the foul-line twice, as the first time he made the tie and on his second attempt hitting one of two.
Cloudland had a chance at victory after deciding to play for one shot in the final minute of action.
A pass to Jones at the free-throw line gave Cloudland the shot they were looking for, but a miss and follow up tap from Byrd ended the chance for a 'Lander celebration in the most important game for both clubs so far this season.
"Some night the shot goes down for you and sometimes it doesn't," said Smith. "We got the ball where we wanted to and Byrd did a good job of spreading the floor for us, but we just didn't get the basket to drop."
Lady Rangers 46
Lady Highlanders 35
It was Cloudland which always got the better end last season, but it was the Lady Rangers who came with the win this time around.
This was primarily a game decided in the third quarter of play, as Unaka turned up the wick on defense to pull away.
"We came out strong to start the game, and then they kept on hanging on and pushed us around for a while," said Unaka coach Ken Chambers. "I told them at halftime we needed to come out and play more aggressively, so they did a better job come the second half."
The Rangers captured an 11-4 lead in the first period after receiving a couple of three-point goals from Jessica Osborne.
Cloudland battled back to cut the deficit to 11-9 by the end of the first period, but Osborne connected on her third three-point goal to push the advantage back to five.
"My coach tells me to keep on shooting whether I hit or miss, and that's what I kept doing," said Osborne. "We still need to box out on the boards better and move the ball around for a good shot."
The 'Landers kept the contest close by pounding the boards inside, as Kayla Blevins led the way with 10 points on the evening.
It was a 20-18 lead for Unaka at the half, but the momentum quickly changed during the third period.
The Rangers had two separate runs which involved their key post player, Julie Roberson.
Roberson got in foul trouble during the start of the second period, which saw her miss some action, but she came alive in the third by pouring in 10 of her 14 points.
The Rangers led 39-26 at the end of the third period, and a Cloudland team which struggled from the field with shooting couldn't quite trim the deficit enough to get themselves back in the ball game.
"The third quarter hurt us -- they made plays and hit some three-point shots to get out to a 10-point lead," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield. "We never could get a shot to fall there at the end, but Unaka has a lot of weapons and they can hurt you from different areas on the floor."