Lady Warriors scare Central

By Jeff Birchfield

   For the 32 minutes of regulation, Happy Valley's girls played Sullivan Central even. In the four minute overtime that followed, the Lady Cougars outscored HV 8-0 to take a 37-29 win Friday night atop Warrior Hill.
   Using a 2-3 zone to stop the Central offense, it looked like the Lady Warriors' losing streak dating back to the last calendar year might finally end against the top team in the Watauga Conference.
   "We played well defensively," said HV head coach Ben Godsey. "We played man-to-man the first time we played them and just a little zone. I felt like they weren't shooting the ball that well, so we tried to take advantage of that. That was our game plan going in and that's we worked on that.
   "Number 15 (Ashley Masoner) was the only one who was going to shoot the ball. The rest of them acted like they didn't want to step up and take a shot, so we didn't honor their shots. We just needed a little more offense. They did the same thing. They packed it in and played zone on us and we had problems scoring too."
   After taking an early 5-3 lead on three consecutive scores by Kandra Roberts, the Lady Warriors fell behind 10-5 at the end of one quarter. Brandi Morgan and Lauren Hollowell helped spur a comeback in the second quarter giving HV a 17-16 lead with less than a minute remaining.
   However, Lauren Burke launched a trey from the baseline to put Central ahead 19-17 at the half. Burke's shot was the fifth three-pointer by the Lady Cougars in the first half.
   Despite Burke scoring twice more in the third quarter, baskets by Morgan and Crystal Nave and free throws by Brandi Dugger put HV back on top 24-22 going into the final quarter.
   Late in regulation with the game tied at 29, the Lady Warriors blew a chance to go ahead when they could not finish off a good assist inside from Mandy Byrd. Central was also having a tough time putting the game away, missing four free throws in the final two minutes.
   Still tied at 29, the Lady Cougars had the ball underneath the HV basket with 1.2 seconds left. Morgan intercepted the inbounds pass and sent the game into overtime.
   In the extra period, Burke busted things open with a three to put Central up 32-29. Masoner scored two more moments later and the Lady Warriors finally had to abandon the 2-3 zone that had been so successful in favor of a full court press.
   "In the end, we finally got ahead and could bring them out of the zone," said Cougar head coach Gary Surcey, whose team improved to 12-2 in the league and 19-7 overall. "We were fortunate to get out of here with a win. Lauren's shot was big. It was right in front of the student body section and they had been yelling at her all game.
   "She stepped up and I even wanted to get up and cheer when she hit that one. I thought at the end of regulation we might pull it out, but that's part of it. They're a good team. They're have got a lot of young players and are going to be tough to reckon with in the next couple of seasons."
   It was the Lady Warrior seniors however, that this night belonged to. Roberts, Morgan, Hollowell and Amy Clark were honored after the contest as all four took a big part in the upset bid.
   Morgan and Clark provided tough interior defense, not allowing the Central post players to get on track. Cougar center Lindsay McGrady, who had a 17-point game against the Lady Warriors three weeks ago in Blountville, was held to only five points on this night.
   "This is a hard game to lose," said Hollowell. "We've worked so hard this season and our record has not been as well as our talent is. It's just frustrating. Every loss becomes harder than the last one.
   "Tonight showed that we can play with them. I'm proud of every single girl on the team. I believe that we have more potential than people gives us credit for. We just have to keep confidence in ourselves."
   Clark was equally disappointed that this one slipped away. "The last four minutes was what hurt us," said the senior center. "The shots weren't there and some people weren't looking for passes that were crucial. I think we had them to the very end.
   "We had 37 rebounds, so everybody was in there, busting their butts and boxing out."
   Masoner topped the scoring charts with 14 points, while Burke added 13 points and 8 rebounds for Sullivan Central. Roberts was the offensive leader for the Lady Warriors with 9 points and 8 rebounds.
   "We blocked out awful well, rebounding the ball," said Godsey about his team cleaning the glass. "We did a nice job getting after the boards. At the end of the game, not knowing how to protect the ball and not knowing what to do hurt us.
   "We had our chances. We missed an easy shot at the end and had some problems not having the right person at the right spot."
   Happy Valley (1-13, 3-20) will try to snap the winless streak end Tuesday night at Unaka, the last team the Lady Warriors beat some 14 games ago.
   JV Girls
   Happy Valley 65, Sullivan Central 47
   Terra Whaley's 18 points and Brandi Dugger's 12 led Happy Valley to the win over the Lady Cougar JV squad. It pulled them into a tie with Central for the conference crown as both teams finished the season with 11-3 marks.
   Mandy Byrd added 10 and Katie Powell six in the Lady Warrior win. Sarah Munal topped Central's scoring with 15.