Hampton girls, Unaka boys prevail on Jr. Ranger court

By Marvin Birchfield

   It was a classic barnburner between the Lady Jr. Rangers and Lady Jr. Bulldogs on Thursday, as Hampton squeaked out a one-point come-from-behind win in a 35-34 junior high final at Unaka.
   The Bulldogs trailed until the last minute of the contest, when Mikki Oliver hit a game-winning three-pointer with 20 seconds left.
   "The girls never quit," said Hampton coach Ronnie Street. "They trailed the whole game, and for that reason I'm very proud of them tonight."
   Unaka opened up a 13-4 lead after the first quarter of play, with Jaclyn Campbell tossing in nine of her game-high 17 points.
   There wasn't much offense from the Bulldogs to start the game, as Oliver scored their second field goal on an in-bounds pass before the quarter ended.
   Unaka dominated the boards in the first and the Hampton defense was dormant, but the Bulldogs stepped it up in the second period with the fullcourt press.
   "We didn't play well at all to start the game, and I told my girls that they were going to have to play defense a lot more aggressively, so they finally did," said Street.
   Hampton pulled within five to end the half, with some offense from Kristie Tolley and Tamra Lyons.
   A couple of buckets from Rikki Oliver helped keep the Rangers ahead, but the pressure from Hampton was starting to take its toll on the Unaka guard play.
   "We're going to have to start taking care of the ball a lot better, and learn that you beat the press by passing the ball instead of dribbling by it," said Unaka coach Don Parkey.
   The Bulldogs tied the contest by the end of the third period with a shot from Lyons off the glass to make it 25-25.
   Angela Vaughn hit the boards hard for Unaka in the final period, as she drew several fouls but was unable to capitalize at the foul line, going one for seven.
   The Rangers free-throw shooting plagued them all night, which proved to be fatal in the late part of the contest.
   Lyons became a big factor in the final minute of play, as she pulled the Bulldogs back within two with a 10-foot jumper, after falling behind as many as five points.
   With 20 seconds left, the Bulldogs capitalized off a steal before finding Mikki Oliver open for the three, which she drained to give Hampton the victory.
   "We're a much improved team from last year, but we're going to have to learn how to score better when we get the opportunities inside," said Parkey.
   Unaka 56
   Hampton 30
   The Unaka Ranger junior high basketball team was simply unstoppable in their 56-30 victory over Hampton.
   Unaka jumped out to a 29-0 lead, before Stacy Honeycutt scored on a free-throw with 2:16 left until halftime.
   "We came out very flat on Monday, so it was important to get off to a good start, and we were able to do that tonight," said Unaka coach Mark Revis.
   The Rangers run and gun was relentless as they were led by Brandon Roper, who poured in 26 points. Andrew Church finished with 17.
   Dustin Jaynes led the Bulldogs with 8 points, which all came in the final period of play, and Jared Irick added 6.
   "I thought we did a good job of getting down the floor, and we're a lot better on our defensive boards. We didn't give them many second-shot opportunities," said Revis.