Unaka tops Happy Valley

By Chad Booth
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The Happy Valley Warriors squared off against Unaka's Rangers Tuesday night in a cross-conference shootout at Snavely Gym. Unaka had the better aim, resulting in a 68-51 victory.
   "I thought we played a little better on defense. I thought we played a lot better on the boards," said Unaka head coach Donald Ensor. "We played with more enthusiasm, and I thought it was all around a good team effort."
   The Warriors (8-15) were the first to hit but the Rangers (18-10) stayed right on their heels until they pushed ahead 6-4 off a fast break.
   Happy Valley responded with a 3-pointer by Chris Campbell to regain the lead, 7-6, but Unaka did not relent and put two more in to pull ahead once again.
   Cody Collins expanded the Unaka lead with the first of his two three-pointers on the night. He followed that up with two free throws to bring the score to 13-7. Both teams added a few points to their totals before the end of the first, bringing the score to 18-11.
   Happy Valley mounted a comeback early in the second quarter, riding the momentum created by Tim Whaley, the team's leading scorer for the night with 14.
   The Warriors surged forward to tie the game at 18-18 with 5:49 left in the half. This was the closest the Warriors would come to leading the rest of the night.
   Dustin Collins put the Rangers ahead for good with a 3-pointer to make the score 21-18. Unaka continued to pull away behind a series of jumpers and another three contributed by Rusty Chambers to make the score 30-20. After trading several shots, Unaka took a 34-24 lead to the locker room.
   At the onset of the second half, both teams had several opportunities to convert but were unable to capitalize on them. Happy Valley began creeping up on Unaka's lead but Unaka broke loose on 8-2 scoring run, increasing their lead to 11.
   Cody Cannon, who posted 10 on the night for the Warriors, sank two foul shots to try to close the widening gap. Chambers sank the second of his two threes, though, making the score 45-33 with just three minutes to go in the third. At the end of the third, the score stood 49-37.
   Happy Valley's Adam Smith knocked down a 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter but Unaka's Cody Collins answered it with a three of his own. Unaka's Aaron Dugger, high scorer for the Rangers with 24 on the night, scored off the bullet pass from Cody Collins to extend the Rangers lead.
   Happy Valley pecked at Unaka's lead with a series of free throws and an occasional jumper but Unaka continued to pull away to win the game.
   Lady Warriors 45
   Lady Rangers 43
   From the tipoff it looked as though Happy Valley girls had ended their losing streak.
   Both teams started the game off in a full-court press but settled back into a zone defense after the first few possessions resulted in turnovers for both sides. The Warriors jumped out to a 10-2 lead over Unaka's Rangers behind the precision shooting of Brandi Morgan and four free throws by Brandi Dugger, leading scorer for the Warriors with 11.
   Unaka mounted a small rally toward the end of the first behind a 3-pointer by Kelly Taylor, who would go on to make two more before the night was over.
   Unaka got into foul trouble early, increasing its woes with less than a minute to go in the first by picking up two more. Happy Valley was unable to capitalize on the foul shots, though, shooting just under 50 percent on the night from the line. The score at the end of the first was 13-9.
   "I think we were 13 for 31," said Ben Godsey, Happy Valley head coach. "We make our free throws and that's a different ballgame."
   Renee Ensor, who had two 3-pointers on the night, hit her first trey to jumpstart Unaka in the second quarter and bring the score to 14-12. She went on to tie the game at 14-14 with a breakaway off a Happy Valley turnover.
   Unaka was unable to maintain its momentum as Happy Valley turned up the heat with four minutes left pulling away once again and stretching their lead to eight with three minutes left in the half. Unaka thrust back to come within two, 24-22, but Happy Valley put four more points on the board before the half ended, 28-22.
   The Warriors continued to put pressure on the Rangers after the break, pulling away by 13. Both teams fell into a pattern of turnovers, though, in the middle of the third, keeping the score gridlocked until Unaka finally ended the drought by hitting a jumper with 15 seconds left, bringing the score to 36-25.
   Maintaining its drive, Happy Valley struck first in the fourth quarter but fouls gave Unaka the boost it needed to stay in the game. Foul shooting played an important role in the fourth since both teams went on a four-minute drought from the field.
   With just over a minute to go, Unaka began digging itself out of its hole behind two 3-pointers.
   The Rangers then went back to the fullcourt press and it paid off in the form of three turnovers, two of which they were able to convert into baskets, making the score 44-40 with less than 30 seconds on the clock.
   "They changed from a zone to a man-to-man on us and we turned the ball over a lot there at the end," said Godsey. "That still bothers me."
   Unaka fouled to stop the clock and Happy Valley cushioned its lead, hitting the first of two. Taylor put in the last of her trio of 3-pointers for the Rangers, closing the gap to just two points.
   With only 4.8 seconds left on the clock, it was not enough and Happy Valley went on to end its losing streak with a big victory.