'Landers, UHS girls advance

By Wes Holtsclaw

   Two sections of Carter County were going crazy Tuesday night, as Cloudland and Unaka's boys and girls teams will be set for two big District 1-A championship games at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
   In the main event of the evening, the Cloudland Highlanders escaped a poor shooting first half, and fought the opening jitters to put away the North Greene Huskies with a 66-49 victory.
   "I think we came out and had the jitters," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "We came out a bit nervous and off of our gameplan, and the second half we sucked it up and got the win. That's all you have to do right now is win."
   Both teams came out to a slow first quarter, but sophomores Mark Byrd and Robbie Tolley carried the load early for Cloudland, fighting back the Huskies' Andy Williams to take a 10-5 lead.
   Dustin Collins stepped up big in the second quarter for North Greene, closing in on the Cloudland punch of Rick Whitehead and Kevin Jones to bring the score to a 25-21 Cloudland favor at the end of the half.
   Cloudland stepped it up in the third quarter, shooting 12 for 18, and defying the Huskie pressure taking a 49-37 lead into the final period.
   The 'Landers dominated early behind Kyle Jones and Caleb Denton, and pulled away with the 66-49 win at the Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
   "We came out flat and played horrible ball," said Rick Whitehead. "We still didn't play to our best level in the second half. We just weren't ready to play tonight. I hope and pray that we are ready this Friday when we play Unaka."
   It was a tough performance from North Greene, considering its best player, Jason Hickman, had emergency surgery Tuesday morning ending his season.
   "I think we came in knowing Hickman was going to be out, so we slacked a bit," said Kevin Jones, "We played awful in the first half, and in the second we knew we were going to have to come out and shoot well, and we did and got the win."
   Kevin Jones and Whitehead led the 'Landers with 15 apiece, while Kyle Jones added 12 for the team from 'Roan-Town.' Dustin Collins led North Greene with 15, while Richie Roberts and Andy Williams added 14 and 12, respectively.
   Girls Semifinal
   Unaka 41
   North Greene 26
   The Unaka Lady Rangers came out against a tough North Greene Lady Huskie team playing a tight game. But the ladies from the creek would explode in the second half, taking a big 41-26 win at the Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
   "I thought they played real tough," said Lady Ranger coach Ken Chambers. "We started out a little slow, played hard, but wasn't getting the ball inside to Julie (Roberson) and Danielle (Ensor). They weren't getting their touches.
   "When we finally got the ball to them, we started scoring. But North Greene was a good team. They were doing a lot of stuff to keep us from getting the ball, and at first they were working harder than we were. I think the difference in the game was getting the ball inside to our post players. But they were a tough team, they can make some noise."
   Unaka opened up with some big plays from Coty Townsend and the Taylor twins (Heather and Kelly), halting a tough North Greene run from Sherry Wine and Patricia Penley to hold 12-9 and 20-17 leads going into the second half.
   Unaka dominated all aspects of the game in the second half, as Julie Roberson, Jessica Osbourne, and Danielle Ensor whipped North Greene to the ball and got the points necessary to get the 41-26 win.
   Unaka's defense was perhaps the most impressive aspect of the second half, as they held North Greene to only nine points, three of which came in the final period.
   Roberson had 11 points for the Lady Rangers, who will meet Cloudland in the girls championship at 7 p.m. on Friday night.