Stingy Pirates stun 'Landers

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Cloudland Highlanders were right where they wanted to be Monday night in their game against the Washburn Pirates.
   Up 20 points in the third quarter, the 'Landers began to slip piece by piece to the Pirates. Cloudland kept a hold of its lead late in the fourth quarter, but missed several key free throws with a one-point lead.
   Washburn drove with the ball when Mark Byrd got a steal and called a time-out in midair while being forced out of bounds. The time-out was not granted and Washburn took the ball.
   With an open inside lane, Jonathan Burchell took the ball and drove in a lay-up as time expired to give the Pirates their first regional win in school history and upset the top-seeded Highlanders 64-63 in 1-A quarterfinal contest at Milligan College.
   Obviously flat from the opening tip, Cloudland shot 37 percent on the evening, including 8 of 21 from outside. The 'Landers made all eight in the first half, going without a two-point bucket during the frame. Twenty-six turnovers later and the 'Landers season was over.
   "We were trying to keep (Robbie Tolley) from scoring," said Washburn coach Bart Powers. "We shot the ball well tonight and they didn't seem to have the game they wanted."
   Washburn had several obstacles against them as two starters fouled out before the halfway point in the fourth period. The Pirates also had three technicals and still managed to escape with the win.
   "We had young kids come in and that was what it took," Powers said. "A good attitude and work ethic. Cloudland has a nice strong team."
   The 'Landers were 21 of 34 from the charity stripe, but missed four crucial free throws when the game was in their hands.
   "We didn't show up to play," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "You can't overlook nobody and we just didn't come ready tonight. We should've ran it out and taken good shots, but we didn't."
   Washburn outscored Cloudland 30-18 in the final frame after holding Cloudland to an 11-point lead going into the period. Chad Shakleford (13 points) and Aaron Brown (11 points) helped elevate the Pirates after Adam Wolfenbarger (10 points) fouled out.
   Burchell scored eight of his eleven points in the period and proved to be the deciding factor for Washburn.
   It was an abrupt halt to a successful run for the Highlanders, who lose two seniors after the season.
   "I hate it for the seniors," Smith said. "We had a good year (17-13) and it was good rebuilding. We've got to keep our heads up and get back in the gym and work hard."
   "It's heartbreaking," said senior Josh Johnson, who had 13 for the 'Landers. "We were up 20 points and they came back to beat us. They pressed us late and we fell all to pieces.
   "It was fun, I learned a lot from Coach Smith."
   It was equally painful for Cole Gouge, who had eight points in his final outing for the 'Landers.
   "It was a shock," Gouge said. "We didn't come ready to play and that's the way things go. Everybody has bad nights, but there are no excuses."
   Gouge and Johnson got to lead Cloudland to the district crown and it was a special memory for the players.
   "It was great," said Cole. "It was the first since '68, but it's a shame we couldn't have went on down the road."
   Said Johnson: "That was the highlight of the year, I just wish we would've went farther."
   "I wish the young players the best of luck," said Gouge. "Coach Smith and Coach (Brandon) Carpenter are bringing this program back. I look forward to watching these guys next year."
   Aaron Stocton led Cloudland with 14 points while Byrd tallied nine for the 'Landers.