Sullivan North outruns Happy Valley

By Jeff Birchfield

   KINGSPORT -- It's fitting Sullivan North High School is located next to Kingsport Speedway. Their head coach Ty Randolph was comparing his team's 79-68 win over Happy Valley on Friday night to a NASCAR race, while Happy Valley's Lady Warriors led the only lap that matters, the last lap, in a 61-60 win over North's Lady Raiders.
   "I'm a big race fan and tonight was like coming to your home track," replied Randolph, when asked about the difference in this game compared to an 88-86 loss to HV earlier in the year. "When we run on our track, we're a little faster. These kids had played 16 games on the road. This is only number four at home.
   "The kids were excited seeing their friends and family here who had been hearing all the hoopla about North basketball. Tonight they put it all together. You have to have respect for Happy Valley. Coach (Charlie Bayless) is like Richard Petty. He's the King. As a young guy, I hope I'm able to do half of what he has."
   King Charlie's team was on the wrong end of this Royal Rumble in a second half, which they trailed the entire way. The Warriors were unable to make a serious run in the fourth quarter, due to giving up too many easy baskets and adding to a game total of 20 turnovers.
   "They had pretty good shooting, they made six three pointers," said Bayless. "They moved the ball well and played aggressive defense. They were quicker than we were and we made too many turnovers.
   "Tonight, the press really bothered us. You can't win when you make that many turnovers."
   In the game, it was the Warriors who roared in front first on a trey by Tim Whaley. Buckets by Dammion Thomas and C.J. Minnick put the Golden Raiders back in front. There were six more lead changes before North finally pulled out to a 26-15 advantage at the end of the first period.
   A 13-0 run by Happy Valley, highlighted with a trey from Jeremy Maddox and a tip-in by Alex Carroll, tied the game at 28-28 late in the second. At the end of the half, North had retaken the lead as a bucket by Thomas put them up 32-29.
   The Warriors would trim the lead to one point on two occasions early in the third. The first time was the result of a Todd Caldwell leaner, the second time after a follow-up by Carroll. North's C.J. Hackler sank a trey on the possession after Carroll's basket and the Tribe started to fade.
   Another trey by Justin Dykes kept HV in the Raiders, rear view mirror the rest of the night. By the end of the third quarter, they were ahead 55-43 and stayed in front by at least nine points the remainder of the evening.
   North got most of his offensive horsepower from the big three of Hackler with 22 poitns, Thomas also with 22 points and Minnick with 16 points. Seldom used reserve Dykes provided an extra boost with eight points.
   "We were focused on taking high percentage shots," said Randolph. "Basically, I told them to take what the defense was giving them. With Thomas, his athleticism is starting to come. He still is a little rusty coming out of football, but he can play the game. In my eyes he's a good player, but he has the potential to be great."
   The Warriors relied more on having all cylinders firing. Whaley and Carroll each had 15 points, Andrew Bowman scored 11 and Caldwell put up nine. Chris Rutledge posted seven, Maddox scored six and Ryan Toney scored five.
   "You have good games and you have bad games," Bayless commented. "The last two nights we've had the worst two games we've had all year. They got too many lay-ups on us. They have about three real good ball players."
   HV (4-4 in the Watauga Conference, 8-8 overall) will go back to the shop for a tune-up before an upcoming contest at Elizabethton. North (4-4, 9-10) will try to keep the hammer down when they go out of state to face Lee High, Va. on Monday.
   Lady Warriors 61
   Lady Raiders 60
   Keeping with the racing theme, North inched ahead on lap 1 taking a 2-0 lead when Amanda Frazier finished off a break. Terra Whaley's putback drew the Lady Warriors even, but they wouldn't run side-by-side again until the final minute.
   Kortney Goulds helped the Warriors take their only lead with 14 seconds left in the game hitting a free throw. Frazier made a final passing bid for North, but her shot bounced off the rim handing the win to Happy Valley.
   What happened in between was much a story of execution. The Lady Raiders led the first half after getting Lindsay Collins open for 20 points. The Lady Warriors responded in the second half by switching Goulds to defend her. The result was Collins being held to two points the entire second half.
   "We dug ourselves about a nine-point hole in the first half," said HV head coach Ben Godsey. "In the second half, we fought and scratched and got the pace of the game back up. We didn't quit was the main thing.
   "What we talked about at halftime was executing on offense. We were in too much of a hurry in the first half. We were pumped up, so we had to slow down a little bit. We had to execute what we were trying to do."
   In the first half, North stretched out its lead on a couple of occasions. The Raiders raced to a 15-10 advantage at the end of the first period and 31-22 at the break. The second half saw Happy Valley pick up the pace.
   Key moment one for the Warriors came when the team had five opportunities to score inside. Keila Williams finally capitalized on a put-back basket to keep the Warriors within striking distance. Down 46-41 starting the final quarter, Goulds provided another magic moment with great hustle and a steal to set the tone for the final eight minutes.
   In the final two minutes with both starting post players -- Williams and Whaley -- fouled out, the guards made several key plays. First a steal by Amber Duncan and a long outlet pass to Kate Powell for the easy lay-up closed the gap down to a 59-58 Raider lead.
   Frazier then scored the last of her 21 points on the night with a free throw to put North up 60-58. Brandi Dugger powered in with 48 seconds left as her basket tied the game for the first time since it was 2-2 in the opening minutes.
   A defensive trap by Powell and Goulds forced a turnover that put the ball back in the Lady Warriors' possession. Goulds was fouled while dribbling the ball to run down the clock. She made 1-of-2 at the line which proved to be enough for the win.
   "We had to improvise there at the end," said Godsey. "With our post players fouled out, we finished the game with five guards. There at the end, Kortney hit a big free throw for us. We got the ball back and did what we wanted to, running the clock down. We executed exactly what we wanted to do."
   North's offense was based primarily on the 43 points coming from Collins and Frazier with Ashley Moore adding seven to the mix.
   "Happy Valley did a great job pressuring us in the second half," said Raider coach Barry Wade. "They held Collins to two points in the second half, due to their defense and our inability to get the ball to her.
   "Frazier took over as a leader. It seems like she's been here forever. She's our captain and she has to take charge. I just hate that sometimes she has so much of the weight on her."
   The Lady Warriors featured an all-around blend of scorers.
   Williams led with 13 points and 10 boards. Dugger tied the 13-point total after hitting her first nine shots at the foul line. Whaley added 11 points and Goulds accounted for nine, with a couple of huge three-point baskets.
   About her shadowing defense of Collins in the second half, Goulds said, "I had to step up for my team tonight. Being a senior, I should be a leader. I put it all on the line tonight. At halftime, coach (Larry) Abel and coach Godsey told me to get on No. 42 (Collins) and eat her lunch. I just played tight 'd' and tried to keep her from getting the ball."
   Powell chipped in with seven points for HV and point guard Mandy Byrd registered five, while also making a big splash defensively.
   With the win, the Lady Warriors improve to 4-4 in the conference and 8-9 overall. North's record became 2-5 in the league and 7-11 overall with the defeat.