Lady Junior Highlanders clip Hunter in semifinals

By Tim Chambers
MOUNTAIN CITY--"Miller time" proved to be a hard time for the Hunter Lady Tigers Thursday night at Johnson County Middle School.
In a game that was tighter than a banjo string, Jordan Miller cut loose for three 18-footers off the wing in the third period to help Cloudland, a 32-29 winner, advance to Saturday's championship game against Lamar.
"I hadn't been playing very well lately," said Miller. "I wanted to step up and help our team tonight."
Hunter jumped on top 3-0 on a free throw by Emily Asher and a bucket from Hollie Grindstaff. Cloudland regained the lead behind two-point hoops from Jordan Woodby and Brooke Johnson.
A Chelsa Anderson deuce helped Hunter regain the lead but Cloudland edge back in front on a Bethany Bare lay-in at the 2:00 mark.
The lead would be short lived as Brittney Westberry sank a baseline jumper to put Hunter up 7-6. Rebekah Tolley scored off an offensive rebound followed by a buzzer beater from Woodby to give Cloudland a 11-7 lead after one.
Cloudland would up its lead to six to start the second, but the Tigers clawed back behind the outstanding play of Kayla Winters. Winters' performance helped the Tigers cut the lead to 15-13 at the half.
Hunter closed the gap in the third on a basket from Grindstaff but Tolley put the 'Landers back in front by four on a bank shot inside the paint. After a Hannah Colbaugh bucket, "Miller time" was about to take place.
A long two by Miller from the left wing gave Cloudland a 21-17 advantage. On its next possession, Miller nailed what was thought to be a three but was ruled a two, giving the 'Landers a 23-19 advantage.
A turnover gave the ball back to Cloudland in the final seconds of the third period, and Miller didn't disappoint, nailing an 18-footer at the eight-second mark, extending the 'Lander lead to 25-17.
"I was determined to help our eighth-graders play one last game," stated Miller, a seventh-grader.
Sheila McKinney pushed the margin to nine in the fourth but Hunter made one last run. A three-point play by Grindstaff, followed by two free throws from Westberry, closed the gap to 32-29 at the :14 mark.
After two missed free throws Hunter got one last opportunity with :06 remaining, but was unable to get a shot off at the buzzer.
Johnson and Woodby led the way with seven while Miller added six to aid the Highlander win. Grindstaff topped all scorers with 11 while Westberry tossed in seven for the Lady Tigers.
Lamar 35
Hampton 29
The Bulldogs hung tough against very good Lamar team after falling behind early in the game. Lana Hicks basket in the first quarter tied the score at two, but Lamar raced to an 8-2 lead on buckets from Lauren Murr and Jennifer Edwards.
Hampton would close the margin to 8-6 at the end of the period on hoops by Mikki Oliver and Mary Beth Ingram.
The Bulldogs went cold in the second frame, scoring only five points while Lamar rang up 13. Jordan Taylor's eight straight points gave the Cherokees a 21-9 lead.
Oliver's field goal at the end of the quarter closed the gap to 10 at intermission.
Lamar continued to lead by nine after three as both teams shot like a pellet gun with the sights bent at the local carnival's gallery booth. Carrie Johnson's trey to end the third cut Lamar's lead to single digits, 25-16, going into the fourth.
Hampton came out in the fourth with a defense stickier than hot chewing gum on a tennis shoe. With Oliver, Jose McKinney, Johnson and Andrea Smith scoring, the lead was trimmed to seven at the 3:00 mark.
A bucket by Kelli Metcalf and a free throw by Oliver closed the margin to 31-27 at the :50 second mark, but Lamar would knock down key free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the deal.
Oliver with eight led the way followed by Hicks, Ingram, and Johnson with five each.
Murr led all scorers with 12 while Jennifer Edwards added 11 for Lamar.
Fall Branch 23
Keenburg 17
The first game of the evening found the Tigers from Keenburg having trouble finding the basket in the first period. Only two free throws by Nanette Manz prevented the Tigers from being shut out in the first period.
The Cardinals pushed the lead to 9-2 in the second stanza on a hoop by Brooke Tipton but Keenburg would answer. After a timeout by Coach Amy Harkleroad, the Tigers found their touch with Natasha Bunten, Jessica Trivette and Brooke Bunten tossing in baskets inside the last two minutes of the quarter.
The Cardinals held a slim 11-8 lead at the half.
Keenburg's offensive woes continued in the third as it mustered only two points in the period while Fall Branch racked up seven.
Trailing 17-10 at the start of the fourth period, the Tigers cut the lead to four on runners by Natasha Bunten, but the Cardinals got a huge basket down the stretch from Amanda Depew to keep the margin at six. Natasha Bunten accounted for six points in the quarter but is was too little too late for the Lady Tigers.
Natasha's eight points led Keenburg. The Cardinals were paced by Hulse with eight and Depew with six.
University Middle School 42
Central 27
The Comets from Central ran into a quality team in that of the Jr. Bucs. Coach Treda Anderson's University team used the fast break to its advantage to put away the Comets early.
The Bucs led 18-8 in the first quarter behind six points each from Rebekah Seifer and Audrea Backers. Danica Collins would toss in four more to lead the way.
Samatha Berry gave Central some good minutes off the bench scoring four points in the first period.
Central cut the lead to six, 18-12, early in the second on goals by Laura Moore and Berry but the Bucs answered with Jessi Nicely and Seifer doing the damage. The Jr. Buc lead was 10 at intermission.
University Middle School pushed the lead to 16 in the third but Central closed to 11 on a three by Moore and a jumper from Billie Jean Campbell. A nice jumper from Haley Hughes at the buzzer kept Central within 13 at 36-23 to start the fourth.
University maintained a big lead in the fourth but the Comets did managed to cut the lead at one time to 10. Five points from Haley Sisk in the fourth was much of the Comet offense while Campbell managed to add four to the cause.
Amanda Rabon's free throw near the end gave the Jr. Bucs a 15-point win.
Campbell and Sisk paced the Comets with eight while Berry and Moore added six and five, respectively.
Backers led all scorers with 14 while Seifer added 10 to the cause.
"Our inability to execute our offense was our downfall tonight," said Central head coach Letha Carr. "We never got back on defense, so they got easy buckets all night long by way of the fast break."