'Landers stun Crockett on road

By Wes Holtsclaw

   JONESBOROUGH -- The Cloudland Highlanders clinched their co-conference championship earlier Monday with a victory over Clinch, but before they could celebrate they traveled to David Crockett for a showdown with the 3-A Pioneers.
   Behind the superb shooting of Caleb Denton and the high-flying ballmoving of Mark Byrd, the 'Landers hammered Crockett with a big 70-60 win in the Pioneer Dome.
   "I'm really proud of these kids," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "It's hard for them to be mentally focused after you play one game, then you come in, get dressed, and go back out. I thought they stepped up tonight, Caleb (Denton) had a big game.
   "The inside game, Rick (Whitehead) and Robbie (Tolley) did well, Mark Byrd ran the offense. The bench stepped up, and I'm glad they have their heads up going into the tournaments."
   Cloudland stepped up strong in the first quarter, but had trouble with Crockett's big men on the boards early. The Cloudland lineup blasted the Pioneers, who kept it up with their strong three-point game from Will Dunbar and Tyler Estep, leaving the 'Landers with a 12-9 lead after the first quarter.
   The second quarter belonged to Caleb Denton as he nailed two huge shots from outside the perimeter, gaining nine of his game-high 18 points.
   The inside punch from Whitehead and Tolley paid off well for Cloudland, who took a 32-17 lead going into the locker room.
   Cloudland continued its all-around dominance in the third, as Mark Byrd began his juggling performance, slinging the ball around his legs, over his back, and flying through the air.
   Big play from Cole Gouge and Brandon Odom allowed their team take a 46-30 lead after three.
   Cloudland led by 19 and 15 most of the second half, but substitutions allowed Crockett to make a semi-comeback in the fourth behind Dunbar, Neil Bradley and Matt Taylor.
   However, free throws would help the 'Landers take it, as Kyle Jones hit 13 of 14 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to hand Cloudland the victory.
   It was a fitting ending to a tough doubleheader, as Cloudland took a share of the conference and defeated a larger school.
   "It's awesome," said Monday night's leading 'Lander, Caleb Denton, "It's an awesome feeling when you can step up and beat a 3-A school like we did tonight after playing today and becoming co-champions."
   Kyle Jones added all of his 17 points in the second half, and Whitehead added 13 to the charge.
   Despite the loss, Crockett players put in a good effort. Taylor led the team with 13 points, while Dunbar and Kevin Hammons added 12 and 10, respectively.
   Cloudland plays Johnson County tonight for its fifth game in the past five days. The boys game starts at 7:30.