Lady 'Landers shake Jr. Bucs

By Matt Hill

   The Cloudland Lady Highlanders' performance during the first ten minutes in the opening round of the District 1-A Tournament can be compared to eating a steak without a fork and a knife. The tools for victory just weren't there.
   After that, Cloudland's Tara Hanson provided the right utensils.
   Hanson hit three huge three-pointers en route to netting 19 points, as she led the Lady Highlanders to a 57-47 victory over the University High Lady Jr. Buccaneers at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse Tuesday night.
   Before Hanson heated up, the Lady Highlanders were ice cold. University High dominated the first ten minutes, and went up 15-10 with 6:32 to go in the second quarter.
   "They played real well," Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. "They shot the ball real well, and we came out a little flat. I felt like we never got a momentum getter, and we never got a push on our defense. But I don't want to take anything from them, they played us tough."
   The turning point might have been early in the second quarter when Hanson hit two straight treys to put the Lady Landers up 16-15 with 4:40 to go in the first half.
   From that point on, Cloudland outscored the Lady Bucs 10-4 to go ahead 26-19 at the intermission.
   Birchfield thought the buckets by Hanson were huge.
   "She hit some threes early," Birchfield said. "Even late she handled the ball for us, and that's something we had to have out of her is the leadership at point guard.
   Taukia Hughes really stepped up in the third quarter, as she scored nine of her 12 points during that frame. Her sharp-shooting propelled Cloudland to a 40-26 lead with 2:55 to go in the third frame.
   "Taukia stayed in foul trouble a lot," Birchfield said. "We all did, but Taukia stepped in and came back off foul trouble and had a big quarter. She got several steals and putbacks, and we had to have them."
   University High did rally back in the fourth quarter to cut Cloudland's lead down to 52-45 in the final minute, but that's as close the Lady Bucs got.
   The Lady 'Landers hit their foul shots down the stretch to pull out a double-digit victory.
   Another reason for Cloudland's turnaround was due to the containment of University High's Beth Helmbrecht.
   Helmbrecht was dominant inside early, as she scored 14 in the first half. But during the second half, Helmbrecht only hit one field goal.
   "We've scouted her all year," Birchfield said. "She's a great player, and she had a good first half. Second half we tried to deny her the ball. And the less she touches it, the less she scores."
   Cloudland received a scare when Amy Storie went down with an injury in the third quarter, but the post player should be able to go in Friday night's championship game with Unaka.
   Helmbrecht led the Junior Bucs in scoring with 19 points.
   Birchfield believes his team will have to play better against the Lady Rangers.
   "We're going to have to play much, much better than this," Birchfield said. "Unaka shoots the ball extremely well. We can't play this bad. You've got to learn to play good every night in the tournament. Hopefully, we can play better on Friday."