Happy Valley girls, Unaka boys emerge triumphant

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Lady Jr. Warriors finish the season on a high note by defeating Unaka with a final of 40-18 Thursday night, and now set their sights toward the district tournament on Saturday.
   Happy Valley finished at the top of its conference after dropping five losses early in the year.
   The Lady Warriors' one conference loss came against Hampton, but recently they have showed their strength. On Thursday, there was no exception.
   "We were a little more athletic, and fortunately we ran the floor better than them," said Happy Valley coach Dana Hill after the game, which was held at Unaka. "We started the season off kind of slow, and we've began playing better since the Christmas tournament we had."
   Happy Valley led 8-2 at the end of the first quarter, as Hannah Banks paced the offense with the first six points.
   Banks finished the night with 20 points total, as the Rangers had no answers in making the stop on her.
   "Our press was definitely a factor in the game, and Hannah Banks was phenomenal for us tonight," said Hill. "She's the kind of player that can dominate the game when she wants to."
   A basket from Natalie Johnson in the early going gave Unaka its only lead of the contest.
   "We've had no offense all year long, and really no one go to person to get a score when we need too," said Unaka Girls coach Don Parkey. "We played hard and continued to give a good effort, but we just had trouble with getting the ball up the floor against their press."
   The Warriors continued to stretch their advantage after a steal and pass from Kristi Pamey to Banks put Happy Valley up 18-4 at halftime.
   Happy Valley controlled the tempo of the game all night by putting on the pressure in the backcourt.
   The Rangers had trouble throughout in beating the press and setting up for a good shot on the other end.
   It became a little better for the Ranger side of things in the second half, as a couple of buckets inside from Emily Vaughn and Dana Williams pulled Unaka to 26-11 heading into the fourth period.
   The Rangers were unsuccessful in making a rally during the last quarter of play, as now they focus their attention in preparing for the district tournament.
   "We played good defense tonight, I thought, and if we can do that come tournament time, then I think we can have a good showing," said Parkey. "I think playing on a bigger floor with help us against the pressure, also."
   Unaka 76
   Happy Valley 31
   The Rangers repeated as regular season conference champions again, and in their final matchup of the year, with Happy Valley, it looked as if they'll be tough in the post-season.
   "We've been up and down at times this season. This is a new team from what we had last year," said Unaka coach Mark Revis. "I think now we're finally are starting to play together better."
   At times Unaka has appeared unbeatable, and their leading scorer on the season, Jeff Peters, had another phenomenal performance with 26 points.
   The Happy Valley squad was lacking the experience of its eighth-grade leadership after deciding to take the night off due to a lengthy schedule of late.
   Unaka was a step quicker and it showed right away by bursting out to a 23-6 lead at the end of the first period.
   "I've tried to stress all year defense, and our offense will feed off of that," said Revis. "Come tournament time we need to be a little more patient on offense and start executing."
   The Warriors did a better job on the offensive end during the second quarter, with Chris Bardo, Cody Hyder and Matthew Gouge all contributing with a couple of field goals apiece.
   "They keep on making the same stupid mistake by trying to throw the ball over the top of the defense," said Happy Valley coach Patrick Johnson. "We still played hard after falling behind by so much, but we have no point guard who can handle the pressure they were faced with."
   The Rangers headed into halftime with a 41-18 advantage, and were able to come out scoring the first 14 points of the second-half.
   A three-point goal from Thomas Colbaugh gave the Rangers a 36-point lead halfway through the third period.
   Colbaugh finished the night by nailing three three-point goals and scoring 15 points total.
   A shot at the buzzer to end the third quarter pushed the Ranger advantage to 61-26, and they continued their dominance throughout the final period.
   Bradley McVey led Happy Valley in scoring with 10n points, while Tyler Walsh added 13 points total for Unaka.
   "We might of give up a little experience by not having our eighth graders, but it still wouldn't have made that much of a difference," said Johnson. "We still need to learn how to make a bounce pass. We're not doing that right now."