Lady Highlanders warm up in second half to down NG

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Cloudland Lady Highlanders were in unfamiliar territory against conference foe North Greene after the first half of play Saturday.
   The Lady Huskies fought tooth and nail with the Lady 'Landers, holding Cloudland to 30 percent shooting and even led during the second quarter.
   The Lady 'Landers fought through their dismal first-half performance with a two-point lead and delivered a defensive message to the Lady Huskies in the second half, leading to a tough 67-51 win at Sonny Smith Gymnasium.
   "They played real well," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield of North Greene. "They shot and played defense real well against us. We had some turnovers early and only led by two at the half."
   Cloudland got offensive execution from Amy Storie and Tara Hanson throughout the half, topping a great defensive run.
   "Tara and Amy took over for us in the second half and we had to ride behind them," Birchfield said. "Those two stepped up and wanted to win. We played better in the second half and had tough defense."
   Storie achieved another double-double on the season with her 21 points and 10 boards, while Hanson netted 19 for the blue and gold.
   Perhaps the toughest obsticle Cloudland had during the game was stopping North Greene's Patricia Penley. Penley paced North Greene's offense throughout the game with her game-high 24 points.
   Penley and Amy Conkin rallied over Storie and Nicki Webb late in the first quarter of the game and set up a North Greene lead right off the bat with a big trey from Haley Williams.
   The Lady Huskies kept pushing all of the right buttons, but Cloudland responded off the bench with some big buckets from Jessica Lunsford to keep the small lead at the break.
   Cloudland opened the second half with two big threes from Hanson and Stachia Johnson. Williams sliced into it with a trey of her own, but they held onto a solid lead.
   A trio of three-point plays from Hanson, Johnson and Storie put Cloudland up by 14 going into the final frame.
   Penley continued to counter buckets against the Lady 'Landers late in the game, pulling North Greene within ten; however, free throws helped Cloudland take a 67-51 win.
   The win sets Cloudland up for a big week with road games at Unaka, University High and Unicoi County.
   "We've got three big games," said Birchfield. "Tuesday against Unaka on the creek will be tough. We've got to work to stop them inside and control their outside shooting. Hopefully, we'll gather and play well."
   Williams and Conkin had 10 points for North Greene, while Johnson tallied 11 for Cloudland.
   Cloudland 60
   North Greene 39
   A slow start payed off in the long run for the Cloudland Highlanders, as tough defense created solid offense in a big 60-39 conference win over North Greene.
   "The kids got out and played good, sound defense," said Highlander coach Ned Smith. "We played smarter and took better shot selection in the second half."
   North Greene opened up behind Matthew Burns, who scored 11 of their 14 points in the first half. A sick Robbie Tolley and Mark Byrd pushed some clutch shots in the first quarter as Cloudland took an 8-7 lead.
   Both teams started the second quarter rugged, but the 'Landers got some quick momentum with some big buckets from Aaron Stockton and Josh Johnson to set up an eleven point lead at the break.
   Cole Gouge and Craig Cooke were big factors in Cloudland's successful second half, creating some big offensive plays for Johnson and Tolley.
   Aaron Spears had a big second half for the Huskies, but it wouldn't be enough to tame an offensive machine from the 'Landers.
   Burns led the game with 14 points for the Huskies, while teammate Spears had 10.
   "Burns is a real player," Smith said. "He drives and penetrates well and was hard to guard. They played good defense against us in the first half."
   Robbie Tolley and Cole Gouge had 12 for Cloudland with Josh Johnson rounding out doubles with ten.
   Gouge thought it was a big conference win, but the team must be prepared for a big Tuesday night showdown with Unaka at Snavely Gym.
   "We came out and played hard," said Gouge. "We were just trying to polish up for Unaka. I just hope we can get a lot of support from Roan Mountain down there on Tuesday. It will be big."
   Said Smith: "We just got to play hard. It's another game and we've got to come in and do what we've done all season."