Lady 'Landers down UH; Jr. Bucs rally to top 'Landers

By Tim Chambers
Sports Correspondent

   JOHNSON CITY--Like five-day-old spilt soda pop on a wooden gym floor, the Lady Jr. Bucs found the Highlander defense a bit too sticky all night long. Displaying a strong man-to-man defense, Cloudland managed a 37-26 win over University High last night at Brooks Gym.
   Cloudland started strong in the first period behind three buckets from Crystal Arnold, April Williams and Jessica Lunsford. A 7-3 lead was extended to six on a deuce by Arnold.
   Lunsford's long three from the wing with just under a minute to play gave Cloudland a 12-4 lead at the end of the first period.
   University High got rolling in the second on a steal and lay-up from Jo Thomas. Dyana Bowers, Katie Crowe and Kristy Bennett followed with baskets to cut the lead to three.
   After two Tory Vance free throws Lunsford retaliated with a runner off the baseline to push the advantage to 19-16 at the break.
   After a long three by Bennett to start the third, Birchfield summons Jessica McGuire to put the clamps on the Jr. Buc sharpshooter. Like chewing gum sticking to a hot sidewalk Bennett would go scoreless for the remainder of the game with McGuire in her face for the remainder of the game.
   "We knew we had to stop No. 33 (Bennett)," stated McGuire. "I wanted to guard her and try to shut her down. It was a total team effort by our defense tonight."
   Heather Banner took over the offensive choirs in the third, scoring six consecutive points to up the advantage at 28-20. But Bowers and Thomas would provide two goals, closing the gap at 28-20.
   Turning on the afterburners at the start of the fourth, Cloudland held the Jr. Buc offense to a mere two points in the period. Meanwhile, April Williams with a putback and Arnold with two free throws upped the lead to 34-26 with 3:33 remaining.
   Only one point was scored for the remainder of the game, giving Cloudland an all important Watauga Valley Conference victory.
   Jessica Lunsford led the Highlanders with 10, followed by Heather Banner and Crystal Arnold with six each.
   Bowers paced the Jr. Bucs with eight while Bennett added seven to the cause.
   "It was a good win," said Highlander head coach Matt Birchfield. "Our focus was to shut down their shooters and control the game on the defensive end. It wasn't pretty but we'll take it."
   University High 65
   Cloudland 63
   Like reeling in a 10-pound trout, only to see it snap the line before getting it into the boat, Cloudland let a sizable lead get away at Brooks Gym Tuesday night.
   After holding a 17-point advantage with six minutes remaining in the third period, the Highlanders fell victim to the Jr. Bucs.
   UH jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead after hoops by Ryan Collins and Matt Conley. A three by Craig Cooke and two from Tolley gave Cloudland a 5-4 advantage.
   Buckets by Tolley and Byrd pushed the advantage at 13-9 before a downtown three from Cody Jones gave the Highlanders a 16-9 lead after one.
   Cooke was hotter than a pressure cooker to start the second, nailing two treys from the south side of campus. After a trey by Collins, Jon Pritchard answered with two as the lead grew to 26-16.
   "I challenged our kids at halftime," said Jr. Buc head coach Tony Gordon. "Our kids responded. Ryan and Matt provided great leadership tonight."
   Four free throws from Collins and two more by Morgan Woodacre edged UH closer at 32-24. Aaron Stocton connected to set up the stage for Byrd's last minute highlight reel. An under-handed layin followed by a 45-foot desperation shot gave Cloudland a 37-26 lead at the half.
   A three-point play by Tolley followed by a long trey from Jones pushed the lead to 47-30 with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter. Conley and John Tillman led a comeback with eight straight points to close the game to 47-38.
   Tillman's 4-point play followed by a deuce from Collins and a tip-in by Conley cut the margin to 49-45 just under the one minute mark.
   Tolley's bank shot gave Cloudland a 51-45 lead heading into the final frame.
   Cooke's three with 6:00 remaining in the fourth extended the lead to 54-47 but the Jr. Bucs would not fold. With key player Mike Tyson lost because of a broken leg at yesterday's practice, the Bucs dug down and played inspired basketball the rest of the way.
   Conley aided the offense with seven points in the period.
   "We needed this one bad," stated Conley. "Our entire team played hard and never gave up. Coach Gordon really kept us in the game."
   Woodacre's free throws followed by a two threes from Conley and Collins gave the Bucs a 61-57 lead. Cooke's off-balanced trey, his fifth of the game closed the gap to one at 61-60 with .31 seconds remaining.
   But Collins proved to be money in the bank hitting six of six down the stretch for the win. Byrd's last second three provided the final margin, 65-63.
   Tolley tossed in 24 to lead the Highlanders while Cooke and Byrd added 15 and 12 to the cause.
   Conley knocked down 21 to lead the Bucs followed by Collins and Tillman with 18 and 12, respectively.
   "I wanted the ball in my hands at the end," said Collins. "I had confidence in my free-throw shooting."
   "Too many bad shots and unforced turnovers down the stretch," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "We didn't play smart at the end."