Lady Bulldogs down Rangers

By Chad Booth
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The Lady Rangers fell to Hampton's Bulldogs Friday night 59-46 despite having played, according to their coach, one of their better games all year.
   The final score would make it appear that Unaka was overwhelmed, but in truth the team was not out of contention for the win at any time.
   To start the game, Unaka jumped out to an early lead behind a 3-pointer by Kelly Taylor.
   "We haven't played since last Friday," said Hampton coach Leslie Campbell. "We came out a little sluggish."
   Both teams went with a man-to-man defense, abandoning the zone defense that has been common as of late.
   Hampton seemed to rush the tempo in the first quarter, often making bad passes and forcing tough shots. The Lady Bulldogs were only able to post nine points in the first to Unaka's 14.
   Alison Pierce opened up the second quarter with a trey to bring Hampton within two. The Bulldogs forced a turnover and tied the game 14-14 on the next play.
   Hampton used its fullcourt press to stifle the Unaka offense in the second, often coming up with steals by forcing Unaka to make bad passes. However, the Lady Rangers remained effective once they were able to get down the floor and get their offense set up.
   According to Campbell, Hampton really focused on its press in practice.
   Unaka got itself in foul trouble early in the second, which resulted in Hampton not only taking the lead but padding it behind three consecutive fouls.
   Hampton had an impressive night at the line, scoring 21 of their points there.
   The score remained tight with both teams matching each other shot for shot until halftime, when Hampton took a 32-26 lead to the locker room.
   Unaka was the first to lay down the gauntlet in the second half, scoring on its opening play. Hampton refused to be outdone though and answered with a 3-pointer.
   Hampton's press continued to cause problems for the Lady Rangers in the third, forcing more turnovers and often threatening a 10-second violation.
   The Bulldogs slowly extended their lead but Unaka persisted and was able to keep the lead within 10 points to close the third.
   At the start of the fourth, Unaka's shooting went south, hitting a dry spell that would give Hampton the chance it needed to pull away.
   Hampton pounded the boards and was able to capitalize on offensive rebounds by making several second-chance shots.
   Unaka again found itself in foul trouble with 4:41 to go in the game. Hampton used this to its advantage, keeping Unaka at bay behind its high percentage foul shooting, going on to win the game. Unaka had 24 team fouls for the night.
   "They pulled it off there in the end," said Campbell. "It wasn't pretty, but they got the job done."
   Hampton was topped by Pierce, who had 25 points and three 3-pointers, and Jodi Stout, who contributed 12 points and two treys.
   "I'm proud of us," said Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers. "Hampton is a good team and I look for them to go a long way in the tournament."
   Unaka also posted five 3-pointers by five different players. The Lady Rangers led by Heather Taylor, who had 12 on the night.