Lady Rangers set to do battle with Clarkrange

By Tim Chambers
STAR CORRESPONDENT
tchambers@starhq.com

   Many of us can think back of that first bicycle we received at Christmas time and remember how excited we were with our gift. But if one was to get a bicycle every Christmas, the excitement sooner or later would wear off and one would expect it every year.
   Much is the case with the Unaka verses Clarkrange girls matchup in the TSSAA Class A State Tournament. The Lady Rangers are overjoyed at making the schools first appearance ever at the big dance.
   Clarkrange is making its 14th trip to the state tournament, an amazing accomplishment within itself. Tack on six state championship titles and you get a feeling that many folks are not giving Unaka much of a chance.
   But the Rangers are ready and know that a win over the highly-regarded Lady Buffaloes would shock some of the so called sports procrastinators across the state. But this will be no easy task.
   Clarkrange is coached by the legendary Lamar Rogers, who is completing his 28th season with the Chargers. During this span, Rogers has an unbelievable record of 784 wins with only 160 total losses.
   The Chargers are led by Miss Basketball Finalist (6-0 senior) Michelle Snow. Snow is regarded as one of the top basketball players across the state, and she has committed to play basketball at Montevallo University in Alabama.
   Snow can play inside and go outside as well. She is averaging 19.0 per game along with 10 rebounds. In her sub-state game at Chattanooga Christian, Snow turned in a remarkable outing: 25 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
   Jordan Ramsey (5-5 sophomore) and Maranda Craven (5-1 sophomore) man the guard positions. Ramsey is an excellent three-point shooter and is second behind Snow in scoring.
   Craven is lighting quick and likes to push the ball up the floor. Her quickness allows her to overcome her size, which can be a nightmare for opposing guards.
   Carrie Jenkins (5-7 senior) starts on the wing and is considered a good outside shooter. Amanda Beaty (5-9 senior) rebounds well and averages six points per contest.
   Depth is lacking on the Buff squad, with Jacqulin Upchurch being the lone reserve to log much playing time.
   Clarkrange is holding its opponents under 37 points per game.
   The Rangers will counter Snow with Julie Roberson (6-2 jr.), who was name most valuable player in the regional tournament last week. She recently scored her 1,000th career point in the first round of the regional tournament.
   Danielle Ensor (5-10 jr.) has been a key force in recent weeks for Unaka. Ensor dominated the District 1-A tournament while being named MVP. Her 18 points in the championship game kept Cloudland from repeating as district champs.
   The offense centers around two of the best guards in East Tennessee, Jessica Osborne (5-5 jr.) and Renee Ensor (5-6 jr.). Osborne was named MVP of the Watauga Valley Conference and could be the top three-point shooter in this area. Ensor is flashy, posing problems for opposing teams because of her swiftness.
   Coty Townsend (5-9 jr.) is the heart and soul of the Unaka defense. Townsend most likely will draw the assignment of guarding Snow. Her size and quickness could be the key at stopping Snow.
   These five starters all score in double digits. This is one of the most balanced offenses you will find.
   Night after night it seems like someone different is always stepping up. This is the mark of a championship team.
   Unaka is much deeper off its bench with the likes of Lacey Gouge, Megan Johnson and Tiffany Babb. Gouge (5-7 jr.) is a valuable sixth man and can play multiply positions, and she rebounds well and has good floor vision.
   Johnson (5-5 soph.) has given Coach Kenneth Chambers much-needed depth at the guard position. Her three at the end of the first quarter verses Wartburg gave Unaka a much-needed spark on offense.
   Babb (6-1 soph.) has come in and averaged some eight points per game. She is a good scorer and rebounder.
   Unaka won't be without crowd support. A student bus will be departing this morning for Murfreesboro.
   The state-bound boys basketball team will make the journey down to cheer on their lady counterparts after an early-morning practice. School spirit is at an all-time high.
   Coach Kenneth Chambers stated: "Yes we're happy to be here but we came down expecting to win. You got to make the most of your opportunities and we hope to do that against Clarkrange."
   "It is one of the premier girls basketball programs across the state. I feel if we shoot well and eliminate turnovers, we can win this game."