Lady Tigers, Comets forge title matchup

Photo by Dave Boyd Defended by Little MilliganÕs Megan Reid, KeenburgÕs Nanette Manz looks to pass the ball after grabbing a rebound.

By Tim Chambers
Star Correspondent
Little Milligan fans were hoping they had a tiger by the tail, but in the end it would be the Buffaloes who would get dragged down by a hungry group of Keenburg Kats. Behind a 10-point output from Natasha Bunton, Keenburg gathered a 24-20 win advancing to the championship game for the first time since 1988.
It was only two season ago that the Lady Tigers were winless. Coach Amy Harkleroad has done a remarkable job at getting the Tiger program back at the top.
"We have a good group of girls," stated Harkleroad. "They give every ounce of energy that they have. I am so proud of each one of them."
The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead on a basket and two free throws from Jessica Estep. The Lady Buffaloes tried desperately to find their offense but were unable to do so until Megan Holtsclaw connected with a three to cut the margin to 4-3.
Neither team would score until Jessica Trivette connected with :50 remaining to put Keenburg up 6-3 after one.
Two free throws one each by Heather Allen and Megan Reid closed the gap to 6-5 but the Tigers would claw their way for more. A free throw from Brooke Bunton followed by a deuce from Natasha Bunton gave the Tigers a 9-5 advantage.
The Buffaloes would stampede back with four points from Holtsclaw. At intermission the score was tied at nine.
Keenburg opened up a five-point lead in the third behind the offensive play of Natasha Bunton, who tallied six in the quarter. The Tigers found it hard to hold a herd of Buffaloes down as Reid and Allen accounted for hoops to pull Little Milligan within three at the end of three.
The fourth quarter brought much excitement as each team swapped buckets for much of the quarter. Kelly Stout runner followed by a free throw tied the score at 17.
Jessica Trivette proved worthy of her stripes down the stretch scoring four big points to extend the tiger lead to four at 21-17.
Stout continued her outstanding play with five points in the quarter but it would not be enough to keep the tigers from gaining a win.
Trivette and Estep added six for the Tigers to help Natasha Bunton and company.
Holtsclaw led the Buffaloes with seven while Stout chipped in with five.
"This feels great," added Trivette. "It's the first time we have won the conference since '88. We are excited about playing in the championship."
Central 27
Unaka 16
Years ago Comet was a cleaner used in to remove stubborn stains from bathroom tubs and sinks where build up had taken place over the years. Wednesday afternoon it was the Central Comets who cleaned house disposing of the Unaka Rangers 27-16 at Snavely Gymnasium.
"I am so proud of these kids," said Central head coach Letha Carr. "They are outstanding players and role models for our school."
The Comets jumped out of the gates quickly in the first behind four points from Samantha Berry and two each from Billie Jean Campbell and Emily Bradley. The Central defense would hold the Rangers scoreless from the field with only two free throws to show in the period.
Central continued to pad the lead in the second quarter behind a three-point bomb from Bradley along with buckets from Campbell and Haley Sisk. With only three points in the period the Rangers trailed 15-5 at the half.
Unaka edged closer in the third period as Dana Williams and Emily Vaughn was able to muster some offense to get within six at 18-12. Whitney Murray's deuce gave Central a 20-12 lead going into the final period.
The Rangers tried to stay close behind baskets from Natalie Johnson and Sylvia Whitaker, but the Comet offense was too much to handle. Bradley scorched the nets for seven points in the fourth as Central advanced to Friday night's championship game.
"Emily (Bradley) is the heart and soul of our team," added Carr. "She's the one who leads on and off the floor."
Bradley paved the way with 12 while Campbell chipped in with six.
Williams tossed in four to lead Unaka.
"I want to thank (Unaka) Coach (Don) Parkey, Keenburg and Little Milligan for letting us play the first game," added Carr. "It allowed us to get to church, and our team is grateful for that."