Rangers spill Bucs

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Unaka Rangers entered Friday night's contest with University High knowing exactly what they had to do. Win.
   In a game that presented itself to give one of the squads a fighting chance to still win the Watauga Valley Conference, Unaka came out strong and did what it had to do in the end as they topped the Junior Bucs 64-56 at Snavely Gym.
   "We came in ready to play," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "We didn't play our best game and University High had something to do with that. They played very hard -- Coach Gordon had them ready.
   "We slowed it down defensively and it started staggering us a little. We regained the momentum in the fourth quarter. It's a big win. But we've got to be more defensive minded to generate offense."
   The Loud Crowd was out in full force for the Rangers as they really appeared to rattle the Junior Bucs late. The momentum from the crowd began to shift after an obscene gesture from the University High bench towards the Ranger fans.
   "They are true fans, no doubt about it," Ensor said. "These guys love to play at home and we've always had great support."
   "The only way I thought it affected us was that we weren't able to get their attention from the bench," said University High coach Tony Gordon, "Our shot selection showed that. I thought we played well defensively, but we didn't get in the rebound position.
   "We were solid and handled their press well. We had our opportunities and couldn't get them to fall for us. I'm not dissapointed in the team."
   Unaka opened up with a solid 9-2 lead before UH came back to tie it at the end of the first quarter. Cody Collins and Derek Cline paced the Ranger offense, while Matt Tillman and Matt Conley pulled the Bucs back.
   The Rangers came out big in the second quarter behind dominant inside play from Josh Jones. Unaka stretched out an eight-point lead despite outside shooting from Darryl Collins.
   Junior Buc center Brandon Bradley was a non factor in the first half, only downing two points and having to sit out most of the half with two fouls.
   Although they were missing their inside game, the Junior Bucs rallied within five to close the half.
   "The first half didn't go too well," said Brandon Bradley, who wound up with a team-high 14 points. "I got that second foul and the coach sat me down. I thought for five minutes in the second half that we had it, but we turned it over too many times and made bad shots. They capitolized on it."
   The third quarter was the same fast paced action you would normally expect from a Unaka-University High game. Bradley came back out with a one-handed jam and some free throws to tie the contest.
   Rusty Chambers opened up with his first display of solid offense of the night to re-take the lead for Unaka. But Danny Quick and Matt Tillman were there to back up the Junior Bucs.
   In what was the turning point of the game, Cody Collins drained a huge trey for the Rangers, pushing the game into the fourth quarter. The Rangers built upon that lead in the fourth whereas the Junior Bucs missed a lot of crucial shots and had some tough turnovers.
   Unaka held onto a five-point lead and stretched it out to eight behind the charity stripe to take the big victory.
   It was a solid showing inside from Chris Arnold and Rusty Holtsclaw, but perhaps the biggest key was Josh Jones, who led the Rangers with his 17 points.
   "Josh Jones is playing well right now," said Ensor. "He was out there competing for boards and defending well. He's been very steady, I'm pleased with the way he played.
   "We came in knowing we had to win," said Jones. "I didn't play as hard in the last game so it was my personal goal to step up and do my job. It was a good team win."
   "It was exciting out there," said Ranger senior Chris Arnold. "The fans backed us up all the way. The loss to Cloudland had us going, so we were pumped up for this one."
   A big tide came from outside, where Rusty Chambers (14 points) and Derek Cline (11 points) came up big for Unaka, but it was an exhibition from Cody Collins (16 points) that got everyones attention.
   Said Ensor: "Cody came out and played like the player I know. He led our defense and created offense. That's the the came to play and it was big."
   "We've still got to win out," said Cody Collins. "We want to win it all, not split it. The key in this game was our press. The crowd was big, I think we have one of the best in the state. They gave us our momentum."
   Matt Tillman and Matt Conley added doubles for University High with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
   Lady Rangers 60
   Lady Junior Bucs 45
   The Unaka Lady Rangers opened on an outstanding note and closed in shining fashion with their big 60-45 win over the Lady Bucs.
   "We played hard," said Unaka coach Ken Chambers. "We put it away at first. University High is very physical, we just tried to concentrate on that and on (Duff) Rearden."
   "We stopped our press in the second half and moved to a half court defense and got everybody in to play. It was a good team effort, but we've got to have it game in and game out for 32 minutes."
   Kelly Taylor paced Unaka with her big outside game and 16 points, however it was an inside charge from Julie Roberson and Danielle Ensor that got the Lady Bucs rattled.
   "Julie was sick and she came out and played good tonight, probably one of the best games she's had all year. Danielle Ensor played hard as well."
   Unaka opened on an 11-1 run behind Ensor and Taylor, when Coty Townsend and Renee Ensor came up with some big defensive plays to counter Rearden and UH.
   Jo Thomas and Tricia Kennedy tried to bring the Lady Bucs back within striking range, but the Heather and Kelly Taylor shot the lights out of it.
   Mikki Mackley and Kristy Bennett paced UH within 13 in the third quarter, but the Lady Rangers maintained their cool and a 20-point lead until the fourth quarter when all of the girls got time.
   Roberson had 12 points as well for Unaka, while Duff Rearden banked 15 for the Lady Bucs.