Rangers outduel Jr. Bucs

By Tim Chambers

   In a game that saw two teams playing with sure guts and determination, the Unaka Rangers came back from the brink of defeat to edge University High 73-71 in overtime Wednesday night in the Region 1-A semifinals at Hancock County High School.
   "The name of the game is to survive," said Unaka head coach Donald Ensor. "Our kids showed a ton of character not to quit their at the end."
   Both teams left the floor at the end of the game to a standing ovation from many fans on both sides of the gym.
   Unaka appeared headed for defeat after David Chen's bucket put the Jr. Bucs ahead 71-67 with 47 seconds remaining.
   The Rangers stormed back as Rusty Holtsclaw connected in the paint to cut the lead to two with 34 seconds left in the contest. Unaka regained possession as Rusty Chambers drew a charge from Chen, giving the Rangers the ball with a chance to tie.
   Chambers was fouled at the 21-second mark and calmly sank two free throws, tying the score at 71. The Bucs worked for the final shot but misfired at the 10-second mark, giving Unaka possession.
   Chambers got the ball at the top of the key and drove the lane, finding Holtslaw open for a layin at the buzzer, sending Ranger fans in a frenzy.
   "I knew Rusty (Chambers) would make something happen," said Holtsclaw, who tossed in a game-high 26 points. "He made a perfect pass and it was great to see the shot go in."
   The game was nip-and-tuck throughout the first quarter with Tyler McCann and Cody Collins connecting for six points each giving Unaka a 20-19 lead after one. John Tillman answered with seven points keeping the Jr. Bucs near even.
   Unaka opened up a five-point advantage thanks to field goals from Derek Cline and McCann. Holtsclaw's deuce at the 2-minute mark gave Unaka a 31-22 lead but the Bucs wouldn't fold.
   Chen's three-point play capped off by Tom Gemmer's hoop at the buzzer kept University High close at 33-28 going into the locker room.
   The Rangers opened up a 39-32 lead in the third on four free throws from Chambers but the Bucs responded thanks to a three from Matt Conley cutting the lead at four. Holtsclaw continued to dominate inside as the Bucs had no answer for the 6-6 junior center.
   Unaka built up a 52-46 lead but saw it fade behind a three from Aaron Woodacre and another runner by Chen. McCann's buzzer beater staked Unaka to a 54-50 lead after three.
   "It's just great to be a part of this," stated McCann. "This is a great group of teammates."
   Unaka extended their lead to 60-55 behind a basket by Cline and a nice inside move from Chambers. After a no-look pass from Chambers to Holtsclaw extended the lead to seven Unaka fans smelled victory but UH refused to give in.
   Four straight turnovers gave the Jr. Bucs new life and UH converted with Ryan Collins capping off the run with a nice circus move down the middle followed by a Tillman foul shot to tie the score at 64 and sending the game into overtime.
   McCann had a solid evening tossing in 14 points while adding seven rebounds. Collins added 11 to the cause.
   Chambers held in check for the first half responded in the second with 10 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Cline added eight for the Rangers.
   "I was going to shoot and then I saw Delbert's (Holtsclaw) man cheat away and he had been dominating all night," Chambers said. "UH played super. This was definitely a team victory."
   "I am so proud of our kids," said Jr. Buc head coach Tony Gordon. "They showed character and much heart. Not only do you have to respect the scoring ability of Rusty (Chambers), but his ability to see the floor as well. He made a great play at the end. It was a good game."
   Added Ensor: "Tony Gordon has done a super job with those kids at UH. They played as well as any UH team that I have ever seen take the floor."
   Unaka (20-13) will take on Hancock County tonight at 8:30 in the championship game. The Rangers also qualified for the sub-state.