Unaka fends off North Greene, Cloudland controls Lady Bucs

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Unaka Lady Rangers were in an old-fashioned dogfight from the opening tip Tuesday night.
   The North Greene Lady Huskies came to Steve Lacy Fieldhouse on a mission and until the midway point during the fourth quarter almost accomplished it.
   However, a strong defensive run and almost perfect execution from the free throw line paved the way for Unaka as they knocked off North Greene 60-51 to advance to the District 1-A Championship game against Cloudland, which topped University High earlier.
   "They came out and outplayed us early," said Unaka coach Ken Chambers. "They played their butts off and we weren't ready for that. The thought they were going to play their normal game."
   "We made some mistakes, but we outplayed them in dirty game. North Greene is a good team and it's hard to get players to understand that when you've beat them twice this year."
   Unaka fought off a rousing effort from North Greene's Patricia Penley (22 points) and Haley Williams (11 points) with three players in double digits scoring with Kelly Taylor's 11 and a pair of 10-point performances from Jessica Osborne and Julie Roberson.
   Unaka was 15 of 22 from the free throw line in the contest, whereas North Greene shot 10 of 26 in what could've been a small difference maker.
   North Greene opened the game on a 5-0 lead behind Haley Williams and Patricia Penley before Jordan Muratore pulled Unaka back with two straight buckets.
   Kelly Taylor made it a one point game with her three, but North Greene held Unaka off after one.
   Penley and Williams helped North Greene prevail at the beginning of the quarter. The Lady Rangers rallied back behind Renee Ensor and Tiffany Babb to take a two-point lead into the second frame.
   Kimberly Wilcox and Julie Roberson swapped leads for their teams in the third. The lead swapped five times in the period before the Lady Rangers too a three-point lead into the fourth.
   The contest got heated in the fourth quarter.
   Unaka kept a hold of their lead early before North Greene coach James Buchanan was given a senseless technical for talking to his player. Jessica Osborne and Renee Ensor came alive for Unaka and made some clutch free throws down the stretch to give Unaka the big win.
   "They all played good and you've got to have that," said Chambers. "Some nights you shoot well and some you do not. We had a good year, now we are where we want to be opposite of Cloudland. We've got a shot."
   After missing the contest due to injury, Unaka senior Heather Taylor will be back in action on Friday.
   Cloudland 60
   University High 41
   The opening minutes weren't too pretty, but the Cloudland Lady Highlanders took another step closer to sweetness with a strong defensive effort toppling North Greene 60-41.
   "It was a good win," said Cloudland Coach Matt Birchfield. "We started out sluggish and Holly (Blair) came up and made some big buckets early. We fed Amy inside and built our lead.
   "Tara got in foul trouble and we had to rely on Stachia to run the point," he said. "We made some big shots late and got turnovers, picked up our defense."
   Both teams took awhile to get on the board, but Holly Blair got Cloudland rolling with three straight buckets. Some inside work to Amy Storie helped the Lady 'Landers overwhelm Jo Thomas and UH with a 12-5 lead after one.
   Mikki Mackley opened the second period with a big trey for UH. Storie followed with two big buckets for Cloudland before Tricia Kennedy closed it by five.
   Jo Thomas cut it to three for the Lady Bucs and that would be the closest they got all night. Stachia Johnson and Blair hit a pair big threes to lead Cloudland back to a 30-15 after two.
   Bennett hit a big three for UH to open the third, but Amy Storie came roaring back out pushing Cloudland to a larger lead. Tricia Kennedy and Jo Thomas added buckets, but Cloudland led 48-28 after three.
   Tara Hanson and the Cloudland bench made some big plays in the fourth quarter as the Lady 'Landers quietly put it away with their victory.
   Amy Storie led the Highlanders with a big 18 points, while Blair had 11.
   "We started out flat," said Storie. "But we knew we had to get past UH. Our offense was good to us later on and we got it together and finished strong."
   The win puts Cloudland into the district title game for the third straight year, with the position to defend the crown again.
   "The district is important," added Birchfield. "Looking ahead to the regionals you want to come out with the top seed. They have good teams in Hancock and Powell Valley, if you come out first it will help you through it."
   Jo Thomas led University High with 10 points.