Unaka girls, boys prove victorious against East

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   The Unaka Rangers squared off against the visiting Sullivan East Patriots on Friday night for a pair of season rematches that promised to be intense.
   However, promises are not always kept, and despite squaring off against capable opponents the Rangers came away with two convincing victories as tournament time looms near.
   The girls matchup saw a Lady Patriot team looking to avenge a two-point home loss to the Rangers during their other meeting this season, and the first quarter lived up to expectations.
   The Lady Patriots played an intense interior game to go along with solid foul shooting and establish an early 17-16 advantage.
   Unaka head coach Ken Chambers was disappointed with the rebounding early.
   "They played hard and outhustled us for some rebounds early," Chambers said. "They are tough inside."
   Despite early trouble on the boards the Lady Rangers shot the ball well in the first quarter, but they would put on an exhibition in the second period.
   Unaka took the lead with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter. Outscoring the Lady Patriots 20-9 in the period, the Rangers lit it up from outside by hitting five 3-point baskets in the frame, thanks to Kelly Taylor, Lacey Gouge and Coty Townsend.
   After a strong first period, the Lady Patriots failed to regain their stride as missed opportunities and stingy Ranger defense seemed to keep the Pats guessing during the second half.
   The second half didn't bring much hope for the Patriots as they simply could not gather any offensive continuity.
   Taking a 12-point lead into the fourth period, the Rangers were impressive from the foul line shooting 16-for-20. East put together a couple of small charges, but could not buy the big basket in a 74-58 defeat.
   Chambers believed the game strengthened his team.
   "We were able to go deep on the bench," Chambers said. "All the girls worked hard."
   Chambers still believes improvement is necessary before heading into the tournaments.
   "We have to find consistency and cut down on turnovers," Chambers said. "We have to play well inside and outside in order to win."
   In the boys matchup, the Patriots followed a similar script: play strong in the first period, and then struggle the rest of the way.
   The first three quarters would be the Rusty Chambers show, as he displayed one of his best games of the season.
   Rangers skipper Donald Ensor was pleased with the junior's performance.
   "We got the kind of game from Rusty that he is capable of," Ensor said. "Josh Jones played real well for us tonight, too."
   With Chambers and Jones pacing the way, Unaka managed a 15-14 lead at the end of the first period. The second quarter would be dismal for the Patriots.
   Their shooting prowess simply disappeared, as Sullivan East did not hit a field goal until 1:01 left in the period, when Jimbo Jones knocked down a two.
   Unaka went on to outscore East 20-7 in the period to take a 35-21 lead going into halftime.
   The second-half adjustments made by coach John Dyer were effective, but poor shooting just could not produce enough points.
   The Patriots would outscore the Rangers 41-32 in the second half falling short by a few possessions.
   Dusty Elmore and Adam Stitt would combine for seven 3-point buckets in the final five minutes of the game to make the finale interesting.
   Unaka would hold on for the 67-62 win as things start to come together as tournaments approach.
   "We made a few careless errors in the second half, we allowed them to get in the game," Ensor said. "We're getting to the point now where we have to have our heads screwed on straight."