Junior Rangers make good things happen in 2001-02

By Jeff Birchfield

   Saturday night, Unaka's Junior Rangers capped off a 15-3 season in the biggest way, winning the Carter/Johnson County Small School Championship in the 2002 elementary district tournament at Snavely Gym.
   The victory ranked as a great moment in the lives of the young men who played on this title winning team.
   "I think it was great for the kids," said Unaka head coach Mark Revis. "We had eight eighth-graders that had been with me for three years. They've worked hard at it and deserved it."
   Leading this group of talented players was conference Most Valuable Player Tee Blevins. He finished off a stellar career as a Junior Ranger averaging around 15 points per game.
   "He's a third-year starter with athletic ability that you can't coach," explained Revis. "He knows the game real well and he made us a much better team."
   It was a true team effort over this past season with Aaron Greer, Chris Buckles and Kyle Estep all recognized as All-Conference performers. Each brought their own special magic to the Junior Rangers.
   "Aaron was probably the best defender in man-to-man, commented Revis. "He was the one who we put on the other team's best player when we tried to slow him down. The biggest strength of Chris was being able to take the ball to the hole. He ran the floor real well and got easy baskets when he could.
   "Kyle was the point guard and had to get us in our offense. We always looked for him to be able to spot up and shoot the ball."
   Two other Unaka players came off the bench to play a lot in the rotation. "Adam Buckles and Joseph Colbaugh subbed when we needed them," said Revis. "Those two were interchangeable and were as valuable to the team as anyone. Adam made some big shots in games and Joseph would come in and give us good play."
   Revis also commended the play of Matthew Whitehead, who proved himself as one of the team's top reserves.
   Another player also came in that should greatly benefit the future of Ranger basketball. "Jonathan Orr was a transfer," said Revis. "He greatly improved over the course of the year. There's good potential that he possesses."
   Although Orr improved a lot as a player, Revis thought his team actually hit its stride at mid-season.
   "During the month of December we played our best games," Revis explained. "We peaked a little early, but the guys fought hard through the month of January. They stayed with it to be able to win the tournament."
   The only blemishes on the record were two losses to Hunter and one against Tennessee Temple. Along the way, the Junior Rangers recorded wins against Hampton and Cloudland of the large school bracket.
   The biggest win, however, was Saturday night, a 33-25 come-from-behind win over Central in the finals of the tournament.
   "We weren't playing the best basketball we could or shooting as well as we could," said the Unaka coach. "Still being able to win the game despite not playing our best, I'm really proud of them."
   Although the championship was a nice bonus, Revis insists that is actually the number two goal when coaching the junior high team. Number one is being a feeder program for Unaka High School.
   "That's what I base a lot of things on," said Revis. "That's my main concern to prepare them for the high school team."
   Revis' own feeder program is also in great shape as Unaka's seventh-grade team is sporting a 10-0 record before heading into their own tournament next week.
   They certainly will have big shoes to fill when they step onto the floor trying to match the success of this Unaka championship team.