Lady Rangers smack Jellico

By Tim Chambers
STAR CORRESPONDENT
tchambers@starhq.com

   SNEEDVILLE--Many of us grew up as kids watching the coyote trying to catch the roadrunner. Every Saturday morning kids sat amazed at how the roadrunner was so much swifter than the coyote.
   The same was true Wednesday night at Hancock County High School. Racing to a 26-0 advantage midway through the first period, the Unaka Lady Rangers clobbered with Jellico Blue Devils 77-39 to advance to tonight's championship game against Hancock County.
   "We came out ready to play and each player stepped up her game," said Ranger head coach Kenneth Chambers. "We were ready from the opening tip."
   The Rangers were hotter than a cast iron stove on a cold December night in the first period, with Julie Roberson, Coty Townsend and Jessica Osborne doing most of the damage.
   Townsend accounted for eight in the quarter while Osborne and Roberson added six each. Lacy Gouge helped the cause with four in the quarter as Unaka led 28-6 after one.
   Things didn't get any better for Jellico in the second quarter as Unaka kept pounding away with Townsend tossing in five consecutive points while Roberson connected on six more to up the lead at 46-15.
   Another three by Osborne and a deuce by Renee Ensor gave Unaka a 51-19 lead at intermission.
   The Rangers used four treys in the third, one by freshman Sallee Taylor at the buzzer, to extend their lead to 66-23. Kelly Allen added four in the quarter, giving Unaka a good balance of scoring.
   Reserves finished the fourth quarter as freshman Logan Wagenseller, Taylor and Allen hit for treys, giving Unaka fans something to look forward to in the future.
   Townsend tossed in 18 to lead the way while Roberson added 14 to the cause. Osborne had a nice evening with four treys and 12 points.
   "It's great to get the opportunity to play in the regional championship and advance to the sub-state," added Chambers. "We need to keep playing well.'
   Hancock County 34
   Cloudland 26
   The Lady 'Lander defense was causing all kinds of problems for the No. 10-rated team in the state, Hancock County. The only problem was that Cloudland couldn't find any offense of its own.
   Laying it all out on the line, the 'Landers gave everything they had and then some before bowing to Hancock County.
   With the loss Cloudland ends its regular season at 15-16.
   Neither team could muster much offense in the first period as shooting and turnovers plagued the first stanza.
   "We played so hard on defense," said Highlander head coach Matt Birchfield. "We just couldn't get any shots to fall."
   A three from Heather Banner offset a deuce from Tia Possiel, giving Cloudland a 3-2 lead. The Indians led 6-3, but Cloudland fought back on a jumper from Jessica McGuire and a baseline move from Banner, giving the 'Landers a 7-6 lead after one.
   Cloudland extended the lead at 9-6 on an inside move from April Williams, but Possiel tied the score with a three from the corner. Two nifty moves by Erica Collins gave Hancock a 15-11 lead, but Banner's buzzer beater three cut the lead to one at the half.
   Both teams went ice cold in the third as Kim Norris helped the Indians to a 19-15 lead. An inside hoop by Williams cut the lead to 19-17 after three.
   Possiel and Sarah Harrison gave Hancock a six-point lead, but McGuire and Williams followed suit with two baskets, cutting the margin at 25-21.
   After Hancock opened up a 27-21 lead, Banner responded with a trey, cutting the margin down to 27-24 with 1:40 remaining.
   Cloudland would trail by three at the 35-second mark, but Hancock hit key free throws to spoil any upset by the Highlanders.
   Only three players scored for Cloudland led by Banner's 13 points. Williams tossed in eight while McGuire added five.
   "It's been a good year," said Birchfield. "After losing five starters from last season, this group stepped up and responded to the challenge."