Rangers close regular season on good note

By Tim Chambers

   At one time the NFL had the black and blue Central division. After Thursday night's boys game between Unaka and Johnson County, both teams might want to apply for admission.
   After 53 fouls, 60 total free throws, two technical fouls and a couple of fan ejections, the Rangers managed a 61-47 win over the Longhorns Tuesday night at Snavely Gymnasium.
   "We came out tight," said Ranger head coach Donald Ensor. "Our kids really wanted to win our last home game for the seniors."
   Johnson County drew first blood on a basket by Judd Shoun, but Unaka answered with a deuce from Cody Collins. Shoun broke the tie with a runner, then a hoop from Jon Stout upped the lead to four.
   Unaka battled back when Rusty Chambers tacked on a free throw followed by a long three from Derek Cline to tie the score at six. A Chambers steal and bank shot gave Unaka an 8-6 lead, but the 'Horns kept fighting.
   Three free throws by Shoun in the closing seconds gave Johnson County a 13-8 lead after one.
   Unaka started fast in the second on a Josh Jones putback and two free throws from Collins. Chambers added a jumper in the lane to give Unaka a 16-14 advantage.
   "We hadn't been playing well lately," stated Jones. "We needed a win and we were determined to do whatever it took to get it."
   The 'Horns battled back behind hoops from Justin Genaille and Stout to take back the lead at 18-16. After two Tyler McCann free throws to tie the score at 19, a total melee broke out for the remainder of the half.
   Chambers and Shoun swapped two free throws to keep the score knotted at 21. After three more Longhorn free throws, Chambers added two followed by a steal and near dunk from Chase Reeves to give Unaka a 26-25 advantage.
   A three-point dagger at the buzzer by Cline brought the house down, giving Unaka a 29-25 advantage at intermission.
   Unaka opened the third quarter on a 5-0 run led by McCann and Collins, but Johnson County would fight back to tie the game at 36 on a three-point play by Gary Evans. Unaka fought back to take a six-point lead at the end of three, thanks to points from McCann, Collins, Jones and Chambers.
   "We wanted to win in front of our fans," said Collins. "We want to make sure that this is not the last game that we play here."
   Johnson County refused to fold in the fourth, thanks to a three-point play by Chris McCloud and a trey from Shoun. Unaka changed gears and shifted into overdrive, led by McCann and Chambers, who would cash in the next 10 points to give Unaka a 10-point advantage.
   The Rangers closed out the fourth period by connecting on 14-of-16 from the line to earn their 16th win of the season.
   Chambers led the Rangers with 20 followed by Cline with 11. McCann added 10, and Collins had a nice evening, tossing in nine.
   "From here out one game at a time," said Chambers. "To tell you the truth, I expect to play Cloudland. It seems like every year since I was seven years old, we have played those same guys in the finals.
   "Each senior stated their goal was to play a sub-state game at home and bring the gold ball back to Stoney Creek."
   Shoun tied high game honors with 20 on the evening.
   "I wish Unaka the best in the tournaments," added Atwood. "If they listen to Donald they have a good chance to go a long way.
   Note: Coach Ensor and staff wanted to send our their concerns and prayers for Kitty Peters, mother of Longhorn players Matt and Laura Peters. Kitty was taken to the hospital during the game.
   "I hope she is doing well," Ensor said.