Hampton pulls away from Cloudland

By Matt Hill

   It was a classic battle of teacher versus pupil Tuesday night. And for most the contest, the pupil held with the teacher as well as glue sticks to a broken vase.
   But in the end it was Hampton's Jerry White who got the best of Cloudland's Ned Smith, as the Bulldogs used a 23-9 fourth quarter spurt to break open a close game and win 75-56 over the Highlanders.
   Smith played for coach White on Hampton's 1992 state tournament team. And even though White won this contest, he's still proud of his former player.
   "Ned's done a good job with them," White said. "He's got them rolling. They're going to make noise in that single-A. They're a pretty good team. They've got good size, good shooters, and good guards. "But I'm proud of Ned. Ned is one of my all-time Mr. hustles. He really wanted to play basketball. I hope he does really well up there. He's got them off to a good start."
   Smith found out Thursday night how difficult it is to beat White.
   "Coach White is tough," Smith said. "He knows the game, and he's a legend. He's hard to beat. We knew coming in that he would be tough to beat tonight."
   It looked like Hampton would have a hard time defeating the 'Landers in the early going. Cloudland led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, and held a 23-17 edge after that frame.
   "First half we shot real well," Smith said. "We stuck with game plan, stuck it in inside and back out."
   Hampton heated up in the second quarter. The 'Dogs took their first lead of the game at 34-33 on a basket by Jeff Clark with one minute to go in the half.
   The 'Dogs went on to take a 37-33 lead into the locker room.
   The game remained close until about the 6:00 mark of the fourth quarter. Hampton was clinging to a 56-51 advantage, but some big baskets by Clark propelled the Bulldogs to a 66-54 cushion with 3:15 to go.
   The Bulldogs cruised from that point on, and took the victory.
   Clark came up with eight points in the final quarter, and finished with a career-high 13 on the night.
   "I felt like I needed to come out and have a pretty good game against Cloudland," Clark said. "We needed a win here. I thought we came out and played hard, and that's what we needed to do."
   Cloudland didn't seem to have an answer for Ryan Deskins. He finished the night with 27 points, and was a presence all night inside.
   "I haven't been pinning real well," Deskins said. "I just tried to post up and pin in real good. I tried to go up for open shots, and get them to go in."
   Smith thought Deskins was big in this contest.
   "Deskins lit it up," Smith said. "Deskins is a good ball player, and he filled it up tonight. He played excellent."
   Smith was very happy with the first half, but didn't seem real pleased with the final 16 minutes.
   "I was pleased with the first half effort," Smith said. "Second half, we've got to do better."
   The 'Landers placed four players in double figures. Kevin Jones had 14, Caleb Denton and Ricky Whitehead netted 12, and Kyle Jones poured in 10 for Cloudland.
   Grant Honeycutt also had a nice game for Hampton, as he put 13 points up on the scoreboard.
   Hampton and Cloudland will be back in action again on Friday. Hampton travels to Volunteer, while Cloudland plays at Clinch.
   Hampton improves to 14-10 on the year, while Cloudland drops to 14-5.
   *Cloudland sophomore post player Robby Tolley missed Thursday's game due to an illness.