Junior Warriors open Little Watauga slate with victory over Highlanders

By Jeff Birchfield

   Happy Valley (1-0, 4-1) opened their Little Watauga Conference season up Tuesday night with a 59-37 win over Cloudland (0-2, 3-5) at the HVMS gym.
   "We didn't come out with the intensity level we needed to," stated Jr. Warrior head coach Rik Anderson. "Cloudland got some open shots and stuck them in the hole. Out of 24 minutes, we played 6 minutes at the level we need to play. Overall, I really don't think we played particularly well."
   After Adam Stevens' free throws cut a Jr. Warrior lead to 32-25 midway through the third quarter, HV went on a 20-4 run to blow the game open.
   "I'm proud of our effort, particularly in the first half," said Jr. 'Lander coach Chris Collins. "Then we hit the wall and got a little tired. In about a three-minute span, their press got us. I thought if it got to the fourth quarter, it could have went our way."
   Cloudland actually took the early advantage with Luke Sparks scoring their first seven points to give the Jr. Landers a 7-2 lead. Happy Valley roared back on a three-pointer by Todd Caldwell and two baskets by Ryan May.
   Sparks continued to keep the Highlanders on pace with some smart basketball. On consecutive plays, Sparks slipped behind the Warrior press to have easy shot attempts.
   Said Collins, "He sees things on the floor. In the first half, he was coming off the high screen and knocking down shots. We tried to get that going in the second half, but didn't get the ball to him."
   HV showed signs of breaking the game open right before the half as Andrew Norman hit a hook shot to put the Warriors up 24-18 at intermission. May then took advantage of opportunities created by a Warrior full court press.
   Next on the agenda, Drew Davis had a bucket, but botched his free throw. Davis reacted quickly by squirting through the lane to grab his own rebound. He put the ball back in the hole in a four-point swing that keyed the HV run.
   Happy Valley got more offensive production from Ricky Morgan three baskets, until Bryan Simmons put an end to the Warrior outburst.
   The teams traded scores at the end of the contest with HV's Chris Bennett making a bank shot sandwiched between a field goal and free throw by Highlander Michael Lunsford.
   May paced HV with 16 points, while Davis hit double figures with 12 points. Also helping the Warrior attack was Caldwell with seven, Swafford, Morgan and Bennett each with six and Norman with five.
   Sparks led the Cloudland charge with 15 points, while Stevens and Simmons each had six. Stevens was perfect from the foul line on six attempts.
   "We need to be more prepared in the first quarter," said Anderson. "It's hard sometimes for young kids to be focused all the time. I'm proud of the second half effort, we had them outsized and did a good job controlling things in the second half."
   Happy Valley hopes to keep rolling with a game against Hampton on Friday. Cloudland looks to recover next Monday in a day game versus Johnson County.
   Happy Valley 55, Cloudland 17 (7th Grade)
   The junior varsity Warriors took command early, scoring the game's first ten points in a game opening 28-2 spurt that was ended with Jordan Johnson's bucket. Highlights for HV in this onslaught was three outside jumpers by Daniel Shankle, Matt Miller's jumper from the baseline and Francisco Borquez with a NBA-range three-pointer.
   "I thought we played well," said Warrior coach David Shankle. "Cloudland played hard, but we did fairly well controlling the boards. All the kids played hard. We're not as good as we're going to be at the end of the season because the kids give me everything they got."
   Coming out of the half with a 33-6 deficit, the 'Landers opened the third quarter with an aggressive defense. Two steals by Michael Lunsford led to the first point of the second half - a successful free throw attempt by Dustin Calhoun. A bucket by Cody Hughes added to Cloudland's rally.
   Lightning-fast Logan Loveless turned the tables back in HV's direction with a couple of fast break baskets. He was aided with the tough inside play of Brandon McCloud.
   Shankle led the Warriors with 12 points, while Loveless, Miller and Tony Carr all had eight points. Lunsford and Calhoun both scored six points to lead Cloudland.