'Landers whip Tri-Cities Christian

By Matt Hill

   Football isn't the only sport they play in Roan Mountain. The Cloudland boys and girls basketball teams continued the Highlanders' winning ways Monday night as they took two contests from the Tri-Cities Christian Eagles at Sonny Smith Gym.
   The Cloudland girls won its game 84-44, while the Highlander boys produced an 83-61 win over the squad from Sullivan County.
   It took a while for the Highlander girls to get going, but once they did the Lady Eagles were no match for the home team.
   The Lady 'Landers were only ahead 23-16 with 4:00 to go in the first half before stepping up their game another level. Cloudland went on a 16-6 run to close out the half to go up 39-22 after an Amy Storie basket at the buzzer.
   "We started out a little slow, and I think it might have been from a hard week last week," Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. "But we started making our shots, and pushing the ball a little bit. We really got our momentum going I think."
   Cloudland carried that momentum into the second half. By the time the third quarter had ended, this contest was a 61-32 rout.
   One reason for the lopsided score was the defensive effort produced by the Lady 'Landers.
   "Defense is one of our assets that we have to rely on," Birchfield said. "I think we had a good performance out of everybody, even the kids off the bench. They gave us a lot of steals and a lot of rebounds. That's what we've got to have for down the road."
   One of the players who played well defensively was Stacia Johnson, who also netted eight points on the night.
   "We work a lot on defense," Johnson said. "We really tried, and everybody did all they could do."
   Storie had a big night in the post for Cloudland, leading all scorers with 20 points.
   "She was good inside," Birchfield said. "She started making her shots a lot more than she had in the past, and we really got the ball to her a lot more than we had in the past. She's got to be a scorer for us."
   Tara Hanson and Taukia Hughes also had huge nights for Cloudland. Hanson poured in 18, while Hughes tallied 15 for the Lady 'Landers.
   Megan Sharpe scored 17 to lead the Eagles.
   The Lady 'Landers did this without sophomore April Williams, who is recovering from an injury.
   Cloudland 83
   Tri-Cities Christian 61
   The 'Landers outscored the Eagles 23-8 in the first quarter, and never looked back.
   However, Tri-Cities would not let the game get out of hand until late, as it was still a close contest until the fourth quarter.
   Cloudland head coach Ned Smith thought the team came out on fire early on.
   "Our kids were really ready to play," Smith said. "They came out and got after them on defense. We kind of got a little winded there in the second and third quarter, but we got them a little rest there and pulled on through."
   Cloudland saw its big first quarter lead shrink to 50-41 with 1:45 to go in the third period.
   But the 'Landers came back with some strong bench play. Cloudland outscored the Eagles 14-7 in the next four minutes to go ahead 64-48 and pretty much put the game out of reach.
   One of those players that sparked the Landers late was sophomore Aaron Stocton, who scored six key points in the stretch run.
   "He came in and gave us some big minutes," Smith said. "He did a good job."
   Kyle Jones led the Landers with 22, while Caleb Denton scored 15. Denton hit seven of his eight free-throw attempts. Smith was very pleased with both of them.
   "Caleb has really run the show for us the last couple of games," Smith said. "He's got it down for us, and is hitting some big shots, too. Kyle has the hot hand right now. He's feeling it."
   Denton also thought the team came out hot in this contest, "We've always come out a little bit sloppy," Denton said. "This year we're changing it around. This year, we've come out with a good start in the first half."
   As everybody in Roan Mountain is looking forward to the Blue-Cross Bowl, the Landers are off to a 3-0 start in boys basketball.
   Denton is hoping that Cloudland will quickly get recognized for its boys basketball.
   "It seems like Cloudland has always been a football school," Denton said. "It would be nice if we could make it a football, basketball and baseball school. We're hoping to make basketball up here just like football."
   CLOUDLAND NOTES: As you might expect, Cloudland's basketball game with Hampton Friday night has been postponed because of the Blue-Cross Bowl.