Unaka tears down Temple

By Tim Chambers
STAR STAFF
tchambers@starhq.com

   MURFREESBORO -- A new four-lane highway that runs through Stoney Creek is nearly complete after many long years of hard work and effort by the working people of Carter County.
   Another road is almost near completion. The road to the Class A state championship just took a wide turn headed for the heart of Stoney Creek, and a Temple was torn down on its way there.
   Shooting a remarkable 67 percent (20-of-30) from the field for the game and a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half, Unaka knocked off two-time defending state champions Tennessee Temple 52-46, advancing to the championship game against Grace Academy (25-9) Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. eastern standard time.
   "This is just another step toward our goal for this season," said Unaka head coach Donald Ensor. "It took many years of hard work and dedication to get to this level. I owe a great deal of credit to past players, my assistant coaches and former Unaka head coach Ronnie Snavely.
   "Coach Snavely worked so hard to get respect for this school and we're trying to carry on the great tradition that he started."
   Temple started quick in the first on a long trey by Zack Mouw on the game's first possession. Unaka answered when Rusty Chambers found Josh Jones open underneath for a basket that cut the lead at 3-2. Chambers gave Unaka a 4-3 lead on two free throws before Seth Skogan answered with a deuce to retake the lead.
   Tyler McCann launched a three from deep giving Unaka a 7-5 advantage, but Temple tied the score at 7 on a Caleb Skogan hoop. McCann dazzled the crowd with a steal and spin move as the lead swung back and forth for nearly four minutes with McCann leading the way.
   "I was getting all kinds of open looks today," stated McCann. "Everytime I looked up, it seemed like Rusty (Chambers) was finding me wide open. Everyone was doing their job out on the floor. We're not finished, we want to win it all."
   Derek Cline gave Unaka an 11-10 lead as the mighty maroon and white began to play with sheer confidence. McCann sliced and diced the Crusader defense for two scores. Chambers added an underneath scoop shot for a 17-14 lead after one.
   Unaka extended its lead on a jumper by Chambers giving the Rangers a 19-14 edge. After a Temple hoop, Jones got free for a basket keeping the lead at five. A 5-0 Temple run tied the score, but the Creek wasn't intimidated by the Big Red Machine.
   McCann's floater, along with Cline's nifty drive and lay-in resulted in a 25-21 Unaka lead. Temple answered with a long three by Sean Wadley, but the Rangers kept pounding as Chambers added four-of-four free throws in the closing minute, giving Unaka a 29-24 cushion at the half.
   Unaka struck again to open the third as Chambers grabbed a steal and Cline finished the deal with a drive to the hoop for a 31-24 margin. The Crusaders responded with a 7-0 run tying the score at 31.
   Unaka won over the Murphy Center crowd on the next three possessions, thanks to three nice assists, one a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass from Chambers to McCann, capped off by another combo from the dynamic duo, extending the Ranger lead to six.
   Temple managed another run taking a one-point lead, but again Chambers found McCann open underneath for two, followed by another from Cline to Rusty Holtsclaw for a 41-38 lead after three.
   Unaka continued its perfect shooting in the fourth, as the "Little Giant" Cody Collins darted his way through the Crusader defense for a three-point play and a 44-38 lead.
   Chambers hooked up again with McCann, one of six times on the day for a 46-38 lead. A late Temple run cut the lead at one on a three-point play by Wadley, but McCann built the lead back at three with a nifty runner.
   Temple had the ball down by four in the closing minute but Chambers stepped in front of Wadley at the 1:02 mark to intercept a pass which proved to be the biggest defensive play of the game.
   Temple with only four team fouls committed had to foul three times before Unaka would shoot one and one from the charity stripe. Chambers was fouled at the 14-second mark and again he stayed perfect, hitting two-of-two that brought the large Ranger crowd to its feet as pandemonium broke out among young and old.
   For the first time ever, the Creek was in a state championship game! McCann had a remarkable afternoon tossing in 25 points on 12-of-13 shooting from the field. Chambers had a solid all-around game, 12 points, seven assists and two steals. He was 8-of-8 from the foul line.
   Chambers and McCann played 30 minutes in the contest.
   "This is not about one or two individuals," said Chambers. "It's a total team effort. I am so happy for my coaches, Donald (Ensor), Johnny (Ensor) and Richard (Thomas), who have put up with me for four years. They took a chance on me as a freshman and let me play a little varsity and now here we are.
   "I'm so happy for our fans, school, Big John and the community."
   WIth tears in his eyes, Chambers paused and stated, "Tomorrow I will play my last basketball game ever for Unaka High School. I love my teammates and coaches. I want to win that championship for them."
   Cline logged in 31 minutes with six points and two steals, while running the offense to perfection. Collins harassed the Temple guards the entire day before fouling out at the 5:01 mark of the fourth quarter.
   Jones was 2-of-3 from the field and led the rebounding department with six. Holtsclaw and Josh Lowe were so valuable off the bench, each logging 14 minutes of playing time.
   Chase Reeves had three key rebounds, while Tee Blevins gave a good effort.
   "These guys are like one big family," added Ensor. "They believe in each other. They are not intimidated by anyone."