Warriors fall to Unicoi in OT

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   ERWIN--For the second time this season, the Happy Valley and Unicoi County confrontation had to be settled in extra minutes, as neither team went away without a scrap.
   On Friday night, the Blue Devils had their revenge from the overtime loss at Bayless Gym earlier in the season by a final of 47-43 at home.
   "I had some seniors step up down the stretch, and that's what seniors are supposed to do and these guys rose to the occasion," said Unicoi County coach John English.
   The Warriors trailed by eight points heading into the final quarter, and went up by as many as four.
   But the lack of execution from the charity stripe in the closing minutes became fatal to the fate of Happy Valley's outcome.
   "This was a great Happy Valley and Unicoi County rivalry game. We've had these games throughout the years and it always comes down to the wire," said English.
   The Warriors jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the first quarter, after John Bulla nailed a three-point goal and Andrew Bowman scored inside.
   Unicoi County stormed back to score 10 unanswered points to end the first quarter, with Michael Price nailing a three with six seconds left.
   Happy Valley trimmed the Blue Devil lead to one halfway through the second period, when Andrew Toney knocked down a three-point basket from beyond the arch.
   The Warriors went cold on offense from then on, as the Blue Devils outscored them 5-0 at the end of the first half with point-guard Cody Whitlock on the bench in foul-trouble.
   A struggling offense to start the third quarter plagued the Warriors again, as they didn't score until 1:36 left off a tip from Tim Whaley.
   A trailing 28-20 Warrior club headed into the final period of play, and it seemed at that point there might not be enough emotion to carry this team for a comeback.
   But in the next four minutes of the fourth period, the Warriors were simply unstoppable by going on a 13-4 run with Whaley grabbing the lead off a three-point play inside.
   The Warriors had a four-point lead with 37 seconds left, after Whaley connected on two free throws.
   Unicoi County responded with a drive inside from Price to bring them within a two-point deficit with 25 ticks left on the clock.
   Some clutch free-throw misses by Whaley was crucial in the final seconds of regulation.
   The Warriors went 2-of-6 from the foul-line in the last minute and a half, which enable the Blue Devils to still have a shot off pulling off the victory.
   "I thought these boys made a great comeback, but them free-throw shots at the end hurt us again," said Happy Valley coach Charlie Bayless.
   Two big field goals by Chris Brown down the stretch made a difference in Unicoi County's hopes of staying alive.
   Brown connected inside with 10 seconds left to tie the contest at 40-40, which sent the game into overtime as Happy Valley was unable to convert on a last offensive attempt.
   Happy Valley grabbed the quick lead in overtime with a bucket from Whaley along the base-line off a pass from Andrew Bowman.
   The Warriors led 43-41 with 45.7 seconds left in overtime, after Whaley hit one of two free-throws.
   Happy Valley had held Josh Hensley scoreless throughout the four quarters of play, but with 30 seconds left he nailed a three-point shot, giving the Blue Devils a one-point advantage.
   The Warriors had one more opportunity on the their end of the floor to win it, but Bobby Morton was unable to handle the rebound off a miss inside from Whitlock, giving the Blue Devils the rivalry victory.
   "It was another one of them close ones and we had no offense going, but we came back and scraped for it, and we could have won it. It could have gone went either way," said Bayless.
   Lady Warriors 32
   Lady Blue Devils 58
   The Lady Blue Devils wrapped up the conference title on Friday, as they defeated their arch rivals from Happy Valley in a 58-32 final.
   Unicoi County continues to remain undefeated in the Watauga Conference, while the Lady Warriors (10-10) dropped to .500 on the overall season.
   "Unicoi County is a tough basketball team. They're physical and well coached, along with being solid in all areas of the game," said Happy Valley coach Ben Godsey.
   The Blue Devils grabbed a 7-0 advantage in the first period, as the Warriors played good defense but struggled on offense.
   Brandi Dugger had some foul trouble problems in the early going, which took away from the Warriors scoring ability.
   "When Dugger got into foul trouble early it hurt us. Without her out there, we didn't generate any offense, " said Godsey.
   Things got a little better for Happy Valley in the second quarter, as they posted 13 scores, six of which was came from Mandy Byrd.
   Happy Valley trailed 24-13 at the half, and a lack of production on offense in the third period increased their deficit to 38-16 heading into the final quarter.
   "I thought Happy Valley did a good job on defense, and it was a tight game throughout the first half, but we were able to pull away in the second half and get after it," said Unicoi County coach Glenn Fisher.
   The Warriors struggled with the Blue Devils' defensive pressure, which allowed just one field goal by Crystal Nave and a free throw from Kortney Goulds.
   Unicoi County continued to roll through the final period, as its lead stretched to 28 points.
   "In the first half we were disappointed with how we rebounded, but in the second half we did a much better job, and I'm tickled to death on how we played overall," said Fisher.
   Candace Shelton scored the first four baskets for Unicoi County in the fourth quarter, as she went on to lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 13 points.