'Landers put down Tri-Cities

By Tim Chambers
STAR Correspondent

   BLOUNTVILLE--From the Tri-Cities Airport you could see the planes gliding toward the runway like a swift bird. Just down the road at Tri-Cities Christian School a swifter type of Byrd was causing havoc among a nest of Eagles.
   Sparked by a gutsy second-half performance from point guard Mark Byrd, the Cloudland Highlanders knocked off the Golden Eagles 59-47 Thursday night. Byrd received a cut over his right eye with four seconds remaining before halftime but returned to spark the Highlander offense.
   "It was tough coming off such a tough loss to Unaka," said Byrd. "Our team is starting to get into the basketball mode."
   The Eagles opened up a 9-3 lead behind the long-range shooting of Tory Davis. Davis accounted for eight points in the quarter, six via way of the three-point shot.
   After a slow start the Highlanders rallied behind Robbie Tolley and Jon Pritchard to cut the deficit to five at 11-6. Luke Hampton helped the Golden Eagles build their lead to 16-6 with 2:30 remaining in the period.
   Baskets by Aaron Stocton and Byrd helped trim the lead to 16-10 after one quarter of play.
   Cloudland suffered the first of two severe blows in the second stanza when Tolley went to the bench with his second foul just inside one minute.
   Cody Jones, Pritchard and Stocton stepped up the pace with six straight points to tie the score at 18. A three-point play by 6-7 center Brian Gillette extended the Eagle lead to 21-18.
   The Eagles pushed the margin up to seven before Byrd displayed his athleticism that makes him so special. An off-balanced move down the lane followed by a dipsy-doodle scoop shot got the 'Landers and the crowd back into the game at 27-24 going into intermission.
   The Eagles continued to lead to start the third period before the Highlander defense shut down Davis and company. Byrd continued to get medical attention during timeouts and it paid dividends for Cloudland.
   Early in the third, Cloudland coach Ned Smith was assessed a technical foul, which appeared to fire up the blue and gold.
   "We played a good second half," said head coach Ned Smith. "They have a good team and this is a tough place to play."
   Jones nailed a three from deep in the corner followed by a baseline jumper from Stocton to trim the margin to one 34-33. An 8-0 run by the Highlanders capped off by two buckets each from Tolley and Byrd gave Cloudland an 43-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.
   Tolley was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, hitting jumpers from everywhere in the paint. He accounted for 10 points in the period. Craig Cooke played a big role in the quarter with two key steals and a bucket.
   "We got off to a slow start but picked it up in the second half," stated Tolley. "We had a tough loss (Unaka) Tuesday night but both of us could end up playing down the road. It's tough to beat a good team on the road."
   The Eagles tried desperately to regain control, but the potent Highlander offense would be too much to overcome.
   Tolley led the way with 18, followed by Byrd with 16. Stocton and Jones added seven each to help the cause.
   Byrd contributed seven steals on the evening. Tolley grabbed 12 boards while Stocton added eight.
   Davis led all scorers with 20.
   Lady Highlanders 81
   Lady Eagles 36
   Leading by only five after the first stop, the Highlanders kicked it into overdrive to down the Lady Eagles inside the Eagle nest.
   Rose Pezzimenti was hotter than a Coleman heater in the first period, knocking down 10 of the Eagles' 12 points in the period. Jessica McGuire would match Pezzimenti output with seven points in the period, aided by four each from Crystal Arnold and April Williams to lead 17-12.
   Cloudland stingy defense proved to be a thorn in the side of Rose and the rest of the Eagles holding them to a mere four points in the quarter. The Highlander offense was clicking on all cylinders with seven players accounting for 20 points in the quarter.
   Kayla Blevins, Jessica Lunsford and Jessica Davis accounted for four each to push the lead at 37-16 at intermission.
   The Lady 'Landers came out with vengeance in the third quarter behind the stellar play of April Williams, Heather Banner and Crystal Arnold. Shooting a blistering 10 of 13 from the field, the Eagles trailed 61-29 going into the final stanza.
   Nine players would get in on the scoring act to account for 81 points.
   McGurie and Arnold shared high scoring honors with 15 followed by Jessica Lunsford and April Williams with 13 and 10 respectively.
   Pezzmenti bombed in 18 to pave the way for the Eagles.
   "We shot well said Lander coach Matt Birchfield. "It was our best shooting performance of the year."