Quest continues for Unaka squad

Rangers cast aside FRA on last-second shot by McCann

By Tim Chambers

   A tall order awaited the Rangers in the first round of the TSSAA Class A state tournament at the Murphy Center on the Middle Tennessee State University campus. Franklin Road Academy possessed four players 6-4 or better, but 6-0 junior Tyler McCann proved to be the tallest of all.
   McCann drilled a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer Wednesday to give Unaka a hard-fought 41-39 win over FRA to advance to the semifinals on Friday against Tennessee Temple, which defeated Halls at the buzzer, 58-56.
   One fan stated those, "Those guys are as big as Goliath."
   "I knew I had to shoot," said McCann. "This is just a great win for our team. Everyone stepped up and played well today."
   Just at Goliath was defeated in the Bible the same held true for Franklin Road Academy. The much smaller Rangers used a trapping, full-court press to offset its size, and it sure paid dividends for Unaka.
   FRA raced out to a 5-0 before Unaka would score its first bucket. Derek Cline's steal and layin at the 6:15 cut the margin at 5-2.
   FRA extended the lead at 9-2 on a hoops by Michael Young and Lucas Foley, but Unaka refused to give up. Cody Collins nailed a jumper followed by a deuce from McCann, cutting the margin at 9-6. FRA continued to use its size to get easy bucket, raising the lead at 13-6.
   Rusty Holtsclaw jumper at the 50-second mark pulled Unaka within five at the end of one.
   Unaka came out sizzling in the second period thanks to a long three by Cline, closing the gap to two. Rusty Chambers tied the game on a beautiful floater at 13. After a Kyle Keene bucket, Cline gave Unaka its first lead with a three-ball from the corner for a 16-15 advantage.
   "I saw they were just packing it tight inside," said Cline. "They were so big inside we had to hit the outside shot. We knew if we could keep it close that we would win the game."
   Chambers pushed the lead to 18-15 on a nice spin move, followed by another bucket from Holtsclaw for a 20-15 advantage.
   Unaka sprinted to a 24-16 lead on two free throws by McCann and another steal and layin by Cline.
   FRA got two goals from Keene closing the halftime margin at 24-20.
   FRA used its size advantage in the third, getting buckets from Keene and Foley to take a two-point lead. A deuce from Jones followed by a trey from Collins helped Unaka regain the lead at 30-29. Jones scored for Unaka but FRA answered with two hoops, one a 15-footer by Foley at the buzzer, for a 33-32 lead.
   After a Foley bucket Holtsclaw buried 3 of 4 from the foul line to tie the game at 35 at the 5:45 mark. Unaka found itself up the four after four points for Jones and Cline.
   FRA used the foul line to tie the score on two each by Keene and Dru Childress.
   Unaka took the ball at the 1:19 mark and ran the weave to perfection as the Panthers were unable to regain control of the ball.
   Calling a time out at the 14-second mark Unaka appeared to run Chambers off a screen but the play was covered. With time running out, Cline was able to find McCann on the baseline.
   McCann released his shot with :01 remaining. As the shot went through, the players celebrated as Unaka had won four out of its last five games at the buzzer.
   Clne led the Rangers with 12 while Holtsclaw added eight. Collins accounted for six points and five assists along with six points from Jones.
   Chambers was held to four on 2-of-3 shooting.
   "It was hard to get shots today -- they were packing it in so tight with that 2-3 zone," said Chambers. "Derek was getting the outside shots and he made them pay. Tyler's shot was amazing. We've got 13 guys willing to do whatever it takes to win this thing."
   Said Colllins: "We want to prove to people that we can play and its no fluke we're down here. We want to win it all.
   "I am so proud of these kids," said elated Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "They just refuse to quit.
   "FRA was an outstanding team and very well-coached. This is another step toward our season's goal. We will practice tomorrow and get ready for Friday."
   Friday's semifinal is set for 12:15 p.m. (CST). If the Rangers win, they play in Saturday's championship game, which is set for 3.