No trouble for Unaka in quarterfinals

By Tim Chambers

   Unaka looked a bit jet-lagged the first half after nearly three hours of travel on the big yellow school bus. The second half the Rangers appeared quicker than a jet.
   Behind a swarming defense and an awesome passing display, the Rangers rolled to a 72-26 win over Jellico Monday night in Region 1-A boys quarterfinal action at Hancock County High School.
   Unaka jumped out to a 4-0 lead on a putback from Josh Jones and a baseline jumper from Rusty Chambers. Jellico held the ball over one minute before attempting their first shot.
   The Rangers extended the lead at 7-0 on a trey from Derek Cline. Michael Michael knocked down a deuce for Jellico at the 4:20 mark for the Blue Devils' first points. Meanwhile, Unaka continued to roll on consecutive treys from Cline and Chase Reeves to help the Rangers lead 15-4 after one.
   Unaka opened up a 21-8 advantage on Cline's bucket and a 17-foot jumper from Chambers. Jellico cut the lead to 21-12 on a nice move from Michael, but Unaka refused to fold as Holtsclaw knocked down four points along with two more from Chambers, giving Unaka a 27-12 lead at the half.
   "We came out and played well the second half," said Holtsclaw. "We should have came out in the first half with the same intensity."
   Unaka sprang out of the gates in the second half like Sea Biscuit heading down the backstretch. Chambers drove the baseline for two followed by four free throws from Tyler McCann.
   A beautiful feed from Cody Collins to Josh Jones gave Unaka a 35-16 lead. Unaka kept pounding away on a nice assist from Collins to Chambers, followed by another from Josh Lowe to Holtsclaw, extending the advantage at 44-20.
   "I tried to step up and play well," stated Lowe. "If I play good defense and pass well, the scoring will come."
   Lowe's four points, two steals and three assists stood out for the Rangers in the third quarter.
   Unaka closed the quarter when Chambers found Lowe open for a basket, giving Unaka a 25-point lead after three.
   Unaka answered the fourth quarter bell with a knockout punch as Collins delivered his eighth assist to Jones, giving Unaka a 53-24 lead. Chambers followed suit with a strong drive to the hoop off a nice feed from Lowe that resulted in a three-point play and a 62-24 lead.
   Chris Buckles, Tee Blevins and Adam Buckles continued to add points in the fourth for the Rangers, while Aaron Greer and Mike Walsh gave Unaka solid minutes throughout the game.
   Chambers led all scorers with 19, followed by Jones with 11 while Cline and Holtsclaw added 10 each. McCann was 7-of-8 from the foul line.
   "We played much better in the second half," echoed Jones. "When you get this far you take no one for granted."
   Jellico had knocked off Hancock County earlier in the year by 28 and finished second in the conference before being upset in the district tournament.
   "We came out and played hard the second half," stated Rangers head coach Donald Ensor. "The hustle was there and I saw several things I liked. This was a total team effort."
   Lady Rangers 79
   Lady Knights 15
   Monday night, the only knights in shining armor wore maroon and white -- that being the Lady Rangers.
   Firing on all cylinders, Unaka opened up a 31-point lead at halftime and never looked back en route to a 79-15 romp over J. Frank White.
   The Rangers got rolling early in the first behind 10 points from Jessica Osborne. The score was 19-0 before the Knights would score, thanks to a bucket from Ashley Mason. A three by Renee Ensor and two hoops by Tiffany Babb gave Unaka a 21-2 lead after one.
   "Everyone played hard and everyone scored," said Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers. "It will be much tougher the next time out."
   Unaka rang up 18 points in the second quarter as every player had entered the game well before the halftime intermission. Coty Townsend's five points helped extend the Rangers lead to 39-8 at the break.
   The most exciting play for Ranger fans came at halftime when Randy "Tree" Johnson came within inches of sinking a halfcourt shot which would have earned him one hundred dollars. The Ranger crowd applauded his effort.
   Logan Wagenseller kept the Rangers sharp in the third, nailing three treys while finishing with 10 points on the evening.
   "I was looking to step up and make the best of my playing time," said Wagenseller. "Our second unit wanted to prove that they can count on us if needed."
   Every player scored for the Rangers, led by Osborne's 12 points. Roberson added 11, including her first three-pointer of the year.
   Tesa Lunceford's scored her first varsity point on a free throw after being called up from the junior varsity.
   Megan Johnson and Kelly Allen tossed in treys while freshmen players Sallee Taylor and Erica Wilson accounted for six and five points, respectively.
   The Rangers played without the services of District 1-A tournament MVP Danielle Ensor, who was out with a stomach virus.