Rangers, 'Landers stand tall

By Tim Chambers

   A ranger stresses fire prevention, and after some "burns" on Tuesday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse, the fire was quickly extinguished.
   North Greene got a game-high 28 points from Matthew Burns, but the rest of the offense was held in check as Unaka ran past North Greene 64-52 in the District 1-A tournament semifinals.
   With the win, Unaka advances to the championship game Thursday night at 8:30 against cross-county rival Cloudland.
   After spotting the Huskies a 2-0 lead, Unaka responded with Tyler McCann knocking down a three-point play for a 3-2 lead. North Greene extended the lead to 6-4, but Unaka answered with a pair of free throws from Rusty Chambers to tie the score at six.
   Unaka opened up a 14-9 lead on field goals from Rusty Holtsclaw, Chase Reeves and Tyler McCann. After a Husky bucket Chambers added two more free tosses to give Unaka a 16-11 lead after one.
   A Holtsclaw hoop and two Chambers charity tosses extended the lead to seven, but a Burns field goal cut the lead to five. A three-point play by Holtsclaw and four free throws from Cline extended the lead to 10 at 29-19.
   Burns knocked down a three, but Unaka answered with Cody Collins playing three ball on two occasions, giving Unaka a 35-22 advantage. A beautiful feed from Cline to Chambers for a bucket beat the buzzer, giving Unaka a 37-22 lead at the break.
   Unaka maintained its 15-point margin on a three from Cline and continued to pad its lead, thanks to a Josh Jones putback and four free throws from Chambers, making the score 47-27 at the 3:24 mark.
   North Greene's 10-3 run late in the third cut the deficit to 50-37 after three.
   "We got to do a better job of finishing off our opponents," said McCann."
   Added Cline: "We didn't do a very good job taking care of the ball late in the game."
   The Huskies got within 11 early in the fourth, but Unaka drove the stake into the hearts of North Greene that proved fatal for the Huskies. A long three by Cline followed by a three-point play off a underhanded scoop shot from Chambers pushed the margin back to 18.
   North Greene outscored the Rangers 6-0 in the final minute to cut the margin down to 12.
   "We got to realize the game is 32 minutes and nothing else," said Unaka head coach Donald Ensor. "It will take a total team effort with complete focus Thursday night. Everyone must come ready to play and bring their A game."
   Unaka placed four men in double figures, led by Chambers with 17, including 11-of-12 from the foul line. Holtsclaw added 12, followed by Cline and McCann with 10 each.
   "They were double-teaming Rusty (Chambers), so I was getting some open looks," Holtsclaw said. "Everyone did a good job getting me the ball."
   Chambers gathered nine rebounds for Unaka, including six offensive, while Holtsclaw and McCann added seven each.
   "We've got to come out more focused against Cloudland," said Chambers. "Coach Smith does a great job and they've got some excellent players. I look forward to playing them."
   Highlanders 51
   Junior Bucs 37
   University High could smell upset throughout the first half, but the Highlanders would put an end to the sweet aroma in the third quarter for the Jr. Bucs. Behind 24 points from Robbie Tolley, Cloudland cruised to a 51-37 win Monday night to advance to the championship game against Unaka.
   Cloudland started the first period like Carl Lewis in a 100-meter dash, with Tolley knocking down two buckets for a 4-0 lead. A nice feed from Craig Cooke to Mark Byrd, ending in a bucket, followed by a three from Cody Jones gave the Highlanders a 9-2 lead at the 4:24 mark.
   "This was a big win tonight," said Byrd. "It will take our best to beat Unaka. Those guys can play so we have to be at our best."
   University High battled back behind seven points from Aaron Woodacre and four more from his brother Morgan Woodacre to take a 14-11 lead. A circus hoop at the buzzer by Byrd cut the margin to one at the buzzer.
   University High stayed close in the second period behind six points from John Tillman and four from B.J. Nave, but Cloudland responded with some excellent inside play from Tolley, Aaron Stocton and Jon Pritchard.
   A Stocton 14-footer gave Cloudland a 25-18 lead. A nifty inside move from Pritchard helped the Highlanders to a 29-24 lead at the half.
   "I was wanting to win this one bad," stated Stocton. "They cost us a share of the conference championship. It was sweet revenge."
   University High appeared ready after a Ryan Collins goal to start the third, but the Roan Mountain regime would apply some sticky defense to hold the Bucs to 13 second-half points.
   Tolley's eight points in the quarter doubled the output from University High, giving the blue and gold a 41-28 lead after three.
   The fourth quarter had the Roan a rockin when Cooke tossed a no-look pass to Stocton whose finish put the margin at 15. The Jr. Bucs mounted one last run, with Nave and David Chen converting hoops to cut the advantage to 10, but six free throws from Tolley down the stretch proved to be too much for the Bucs to overcome.
   Byrd and Stocton added nine to aid the 'Lander attack.
   "It's great to play for the championship against Unaka," said Tolley. "They've got a great team and are well-coached. It should be a great game with a huge crowd."
   "We were much better in our transition defense the second half," added 'Lander head coach Ned Smith. "It will take a total team effort Thursday night against Unaka."