HV bows to Central

By Tim Chambers

   BLOUNTVILLE -- Buck Owens sang that famous song "I've got a tiger by the tail" in the mid '60s. Warrior fans were just hoping to get a cougar by the paw before halftime on Wednesday night.
   Led by the inside-outside duo of Matt Dunford and Joe Brown, the Cougars scratched out a 61-54 win over the Warriors in the District 1-AA tournament semifinals at the Cougar Cage.
   A paw in the face of the hot-shooting Brown would have helped the Warriors in the first half. Downtown Brown connected on three treys en route to a 13-point first half performance.
   Dunford helped the Cougars to a 4-2 lead but the Warriors answered with the likes of Todd Caldwell and Alex Carroll hitting for buckets. Dunford's racked up eight first quarter points before Happy Valley mounted a comeback.
   Carroll's putback shrunk the lead to five followed by Tim Whaley's two baseline jumpers that cut the margin at 11-10 after one.
   The Cougars were purring in the second quarter as Brown was hitting three's from the deep corner. The Warriors found some offense from Whaley after Central up the lead to 12.
   Whaley's 10th point of the quarter cut the Cougar advantage at 30-16. Caldwell's deuce followed by a three-ball from the corner at the buzzer pulled the Warriors within nine at the break.
   "We got to do a better job rebounding," stated Whaley. "The last five or six game we have controlled the boards, but not tonight."
   "We rely on getting the ball off the boards and running our break. We got to do better against Elizabethton. We've still got a shot if we win Friday and win the regional."
   The Valley got happy in the early minutes of the third quarter thanks to two baskets from Carroll and a breakaway by Chris Rutledge. The score stood at 34-27.
   Dunford posed problems underneath the basket for the Warriors collecting four offensive rebound to go along with nine points in the period. Thanks to Whaley's baseline jumper, the Warriors were able to cut a 13-point lead to 11 after three.
   Happy Valley drew first blood in the fourth period as a long three from Ricky Morgan cut the Cougar lead to 43-35. A 7-0 run by Central sparked by five points from Zach Frye pushed the margin back at 15.
   Two deep threes from Rutledge, followed by a three-point play from Whaley, got the Warriors close at 52-44 with 3:44 remaining. After a Central bucket, Carroll followed up with a jumphook as the Cougar lead stayed at eight.
   Another trey from Phillip Weatherford proved to be too much for the Warriors to overcome in the final minutes. A nice hoop from Ryan May followed by a Jeremy Maddox three was too little too late for the Valley.
   Whaley tossed in 16 for the Warriors while Carroll added 10. Caldwell had nine, all in the first half.
   "They were the better ball team tonight," stated Warrior legendary head coach Charlie Bayless. "We wanted to run with the basketball but we keep turning it over.
   "The layoff might have hurt us but I don't know. We should have been ready to play."
   Happy Valley takes on Elizabethton in the consolation game at 6:30 Friday night while Central will battle Volunteer at 8 p.m. for the District 1-AA championship.