Cloudland stops Keenburg in boys, girls play

By Michelle Pope

   The Cloudland Jr. High basketball squads showed Keenburg what they were made of on the Tigers' court Thursday afternoon. The Jr. Highlanders went into the half up by 19, and finished the game with a 52-20 win. The Lady Tigers bared their teeth in defense, but the girls from Cloudland took the game, 43-21.
   Michael Lunsford dominated the court for the Jr. Highlanders, scoring seven of his 24 points in the first quarter. Alex Gouge and Brett Stocton hit the basket to make Cloudland's score 11. Josh Moore made Keenburg's lone first half goal during the first minutes of the game.
   "We started off a little slow, trying to get used to the small court," said Mike Lunsford, Cloudland's coach. "We didn't pass the ball as well as we have been in practice and in other games."
   However, the slow start wasn't detrimental to the Jr. 'Landers, as Keenburg couldn't seem to even out the score. Kyle Heaton drove in a layup for Cloudland in the second quarter, and after a rebounded goal from Gouge, Lunsford sank two more to give Cloudland a 21-2 lead as the teams trotted to the locker room.
   "Cloudland has really good athletes and they've got so much height," said Keenburg coach Scott Heaton.
   Heaton had quite a halftime speech to make in his effort to spur his team out of the hole they found themselves in.
   "I told them that was the worst half that we have ever played, and that there was nowhere to go but up," he said. "I told them that we were nineteen points down, but if we played our kind of game, we still had a chance to win this ball game."
   The Jr. Tigers took the advice to heart, coming back out to score 18 points in the second half. Moore made a scoring drive from the Tigers' end of the court, and cashed in on two foul shots in the third quarter. Cody Marley broke away from the defense twice, sinking two goals for Keenburg, and Jordan Lambert scored on two jumpers.
   "I think they believed it, and good things started to happen in the second half," said Heaton.
   Lunsford scored a 3-pointer for Cloudland in the third, as well as two more shots. Gouge scored on a pass from Lunsford, and Adam Cole sunk two goals in the second half. Billy Markland made another three for the Jr. 'Landers, and Heaton turned the heat up with four more Highlander points.
   "We played pretty well overall," said Coach Lunsford. "We played really good defense, especially the first half. I think Jordan Hughes did a great job. He may not have even scored for us, but he did a great job of playing that back. He did a good job and rebounded pretty well."
   Keenburg was disappointed in the loss, but is now more determined than ever to set the record straight. "I told them at the end of the game, that we scored two points in the first half and eighteen in the second half," said Coach Heaton.
   "If we had put 18 points up in the first half, we would have been in the ball game. We're a much better team than we played today, and I've got to keep them believing that."
   The girls' game was more of a defensive struggle for both sides. Cloudland played aggressively, giving Keenburg's Jessica Estep and Brooke Bunten two foul shots each in the first quarter. Estep sunk both of hers, and a jump shot from Natasha Bunten gave Keenburg a score of four.
   Cloudland played the court well, with a variety of players contributing to the numbers that ticked upward on the scoreboard. Shelley Winters made two goals in the first quarter. After a rebound that post Rebekah Tolley put in the basket, a jumper from Bethany Bare, and a sunk foul shot by Julia Gibbs, the Lady Highlanders had an early 5-point lead.
   "We had some kids step up and make some big buckets," Randy Birchfield said of his Cloudland team. "Shelley Winters stepped up and hit two in a row right over there that was big. Rebekah inside, there's a lot of shots that she usually hits."
   Brooke Bunten handled the ball for Keenburg with skill and ease, as well as doling out her fair share of the scoring. In the second quarter, she sank both of her given foul shots, and took the ball in on a layup. Natasha Bunten scored on a drive, helping make the second quarter successful for the Jr. Tigers.
   Cloudland, however, also played a scorching second quarter. Jordan Miller scored twice from the inside, as did Tolley. Bare and Shellie McKinney each scored a goal to bring the Jr. 'Landers up to 21 against Keenburg's 10 before the halftime buzzer sounded.
   The third quarter was a battle, as Cloudland scored 10 points, six of those from Tolley, and Keenburg put up six points. The final quarter was the snare that brought the Tigers down, despite a valiant three-point shot by Estep, and a field goal from Connie Harrell.
   Cloudland scored sixteen points to end the game, mainly because of excellent offense from Tolley and Miller. Tolley wrapped up her sixteen total points with two fourth-quarter shots, and Miller made her mark with three field goals.
   "Jordan Miller came off the bench, played probably the least of anybody, and had ten points," said Birchfield.
   Amy Harkleroad was glad to see that her Tigers improved. "We played much better than last time we played. The girls came out, wanting to hustle, wanting to do well, played better as a team. I was pleased. "
   "Keenburg really played well," said Birchfield. "They hit some big shots, and some big times, and the biggest thing for us, is we had seventeen turnovers and only seven steals. We shot the ball a better percentage than we have in the past, but we didn't execute very well."
   He knows that all the teams will improve as the season goes on, including his. "We're relatively young, haven't played a lot of basketball, and we build on it every day."