Chambers scores 35 as Rangers edge UH

By Tim Chambers
STAR Correspondent

   JOHNSON CITY -- A rusty nail can cause severe pain when its penetrates inside the skin. Friday night at Brooks Gymnasium, University High felt excruciating mental pain when Rusty Chambers penetrated the Jr. Buc defense for 35 points to lead Unaka past the Jr. Bucs 74-69 in a key Watauga Valley Conference matchup.
   Chambers would accounted for 20 points in the fourth quarter scoring Unaka's final 18 to cap off an incredible performance.
   "Too much Rusty Chambers," said University High head coach Tony Gordon. "We tired everything, we just couldn't stop him."
   "I just tried to help my team," added Chambers. "Guy like Tee (Blevins) and Chase (Reeves) really stepped up and played well tonight."
   "Cody (Collins) is playing really well and Derek (Cline) does a great job at running our team. I'm just proud of our entire team. Coach Gordon does a great job with UH."
   Unaka jumped out to a 5-0 lead on baskets from Collins and Josh Jones, and extended it to 9-2 on two free throws from Tyler McCann and a baseline jumper from Reeves.
   The Jr. Bucs fought back behind Matt Conley and Mike Tyson to tie the score at 9-9 with 2:50 remaining in the period. McCann extended the lead to three but a trey from Tyson tied the score at 13.
   With the score tied at 16 Unaka was aided by Collins with a deuce and Chambers with a steal and layin at the buzzer that gave the Rangers a 20-16 lead after one.
   The second quarter featured University High accounting for most of its points via way of the foul line. Freshman Aaron Woodacre and point guard Ryan Collins spearheaded the Jr. Buc attack that saw the Bucs close to within five at intermission.
   Woodacre's three-point play cut the lead to 20-19 but Unaka answered with two by Chambers and a three-point play from Rusty Holtsclaw to push the margin back to 25-19.
   Unaka seemed to gain momentum when Collins threw an alley-oop lob to Chambers for two, and on the next possession Chambers found Collins with a no-look pass to extend the lead to nine at 33-24.
   Two free throws from Reeves, along with a deep bomb from Collins, gave the Rangers a 38-33 lead as the quarter ended.
   "I just tried to step up and help my team," said Reeves. "It's tough to win over here."
   "Chase played well," stated Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "He gave us a big lift."
   University opened the third quarter hotter than an 2500 BTU kerosene heater, hitting from everywhere on the floor. Buckets, two each from Conley and Collins, put the Bucs up 41-39 but Chambers answered with four points to give Unaka a 43-41 lead.
   The Bucs, behind Conley, pushed the lead back to four, but Chambers and Holtsclaw kept the Rangers even with back-to-back deuces.
   University High regained the lead at 49-48, but a Chambers three-point play with :07 remaining gave the Rangers a 51-49 edge. It was here the most unusual set of circumstances provided the Bucs a seven point lead.
   With Conley falling out of bounds, a foul was whistled followed by a technical, resulting in five free throws with :02 remaining. Conley stepped up and hit 5-5 to give the Bucs a 54-51 lead.
   On the ensuing inbounds pass, John Tillman was fouled, resulting in two free throws, giving the Bucs seven points in two seconds and a 56-51 lead.
   University pushed the lead to 63-55 to start the fourth quarter but Chambers refused to let the Rangers die. It was from this point in the game that Chambers scored the next 18 points over a five minute span to stun the Jr. Buc faithful, much to the delight of a very vocal Unaka crowd.
   With Unaka down five, Chambers would convert two three-point plays to give the Rangers at 68-67 lad with 1:33 remaining. Collins converted two free throws to give UH a 69-68 lead.
   A turnover gave the ball back to UH with 55 seconds remaining, but Unaka refused to quit. Chambers picked of a pass and took it to the house, giving Unaka a 70-69 lead.
   UH misfired on its next trip as Chambers grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Converting 2-of-2, the Rangers led 72-69 with 23 seconds remaining.
   The Bucs tried to get off a shot but misfired, and Chambers was fouled after a key rebound by Jones. Converting 2-of-2, Unaka escaped with a hard fought five-point win.
   "University High had a great game plan," stated Ensor. "We played much better halfcourt defense in the fourth quarter.
   "Rusty, after a slow start, just refused to let us lose. It was great to see him step up like that."
   "I told Rusty that anything I could do to help him play at the next level, I would," added Gordon, a former Western Carolina standout. "He would be a great find for some of our local colleges."
   With the win Unaka can clinch a tie for the Watauga Valley Conference with a win over Clinch Wednesday afternoon. Then comes the much-anticipated showdown at Cloudland on Feb. 10.