Bulldogs stem Unaka's tide

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   In the first half Coach Bud Hazelwood of Hampton must have felt as if he was on the show Survivor as he tried to figure out how to protect his starters from getting any more fouls. The one thing he did discover is that if he was going to survive he needed plenty of Moss -- Jacob Moss that is.
   Lead by an inspiring performance from the Hampton sophomore, who rained in 25 points, the Hampton Bulldogs fought, scraped and finally took a lead that would stand in the closing minute of play as they escaped Snavely Gym with a 72-67 win at Unaka before a frenzied, boisterous crowd.
   "It's a great rivalry and for it to be great each team needs to win one occasionally and tonight it was our night to win," said Hazelwood. "We've had several games where we blew it at the line, but tonight our young team learned how to step up and win and it's just a great feeling, especially for the kids."
   The entire game was one where neither team could establish any type of a sustained lead as the largest lead the entire night was five points, which made for one exciting basketball game.
   Both teams started out even and by halftime were even again as Unaka rode the big gun of Rusty Chambers, who continues to add to a statistically phenomenal season. The junior accounted for almost half of the 31 points scored by the Rangers in the first half as he bobbed and weaved his way through the Hampton defense to hit for 15 points.
   Cody Collins and Derek Cline made up the Ranger posse in the half as Collins collected six points and Cline five points in a contributing role. Post Josh Jones also netted four points for Unaka.
   Meanwhile, Moss was showing the way for Hampton by collecting 11 first-half points with Adam Miller adding seven for the 'Dogs. Moss and his brother Josh, Corey Hall and Michael McCall were all saddled with three personal fouls in the first 16 minutes of play, causing some concern for Hazelwood and his staff.
   The third period belonged to Chambers and the Rangers as the junior kept the hot hand, scorching the nets to add 11 more points to his tally and keep the Rangers up by two, 46-44, after three complete.
   Zack Trivette brought his 'A' game out after intermission as the young man single-handedly kept the 'Dogs in contention by penciling in eight points to lead Hampton.
   Chambers continued to light it up in the final period, adding 10 more to his total while Daniel McInturff tried to help the Rangers take the hard-fought contest by netting six. It was going to be too much Moss on this night, though, as 14 points more, including some clutch free-throw shooting in the final seconds, helped to push the 'Dogs over the top.
   "I am totally speechless," said an emotionally-elated Moss after the game. "I feel so good right now about helping my team take this big win that I can't even describe it."
   Chambers finished the night as leading scorer with 36 points, which makes a total in the neighborhood of 126 points in his last four games. Moss finished with 25 to pace Hampton.
   Besides Chamber's 36, Unaka received 12 points from Collins and seven each from Cline and McInturff. Trivette and Miller finished with nine points each while Hall, Jacob Culler and McCall all finished with seven in a contributing factor for the winners.
   Unaka head coach Donald Ensor wasn't making excuses for his team.
   "We didn't come here mentally prepared to win this game and I really don't know why," said Ensor. "You cannot miss as many foul shots and have as many blown assignments defensively as we did and win."
   Added Ensor: "Basketball is four times more mental than it is physical and tonight we just weren't into it mentally and it showed in every aspect of our game."
   With the upcoming conference tournament slated to start next weekend at Elizabethton, a win like this could be what it takes for the Bulldogs to open some eyes.
   Said Hazelwood: "Coach McClain and Coach Oliver did a great job of getting these guys prepared for tonight and with a win like this, you don't know what type of positive effect it will have. We are just excited to get this win for our young ball team."