Unaka, JC drop tight contests

By Marvin Birchfield

   It was an exciting night of competition at Ray Shoun Gymnasium on Saturday, as area teams battled to a close outcome in each of the evenings three match-ups.
   The last game of the night featured Unaka pairing up against Knox Bearden, which wasn't decided until the final seconds of the contest, with the Rangers falling short in an 80-75 final.
   "They're very athletic, and I didn't think we handled the pressure like we thought we should have, but I didn't see anything I thought that cannot be corrected," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor.
   A stellar 30-point performance from Bearden's center Jeremy Holiday in the second-half erased an 11-point deficit which they faced at halftime.
   The Rangers came out to grab the lead by the end of the first period with a 22-16 advantage, after going on a 12-2 run late.
   Rusty Holtsclaw made the first field goal for Unaka, as he and Rusty Chambers led the way with a combined 13 of the Rangers' first quarter points.
   A couple of three-point goals from Chambers and Cody Collins put the Rangers up 40-28 with three minutes left in the half, as Unaka was in control of the first two periods.
   The half ended with a rebound and putback by Holtsclaw, as just one tick was left on the clock with Unaka taking a 43-32 lead into the locker room.
   Bearden stepped up the pace in the second half by executing the full-court pressure and creating turnovers from Unaka.
   "Our press has to be one of our best offenses this year," said Bearden coach Mark Blevins. "We don't have much size after you get past Holiday, so we have to use our quickness."
   The Rangers didn't have an answer for the big man inside Holiday, as he cut loose for 16 points in the third quarter to make it a tie ballgame heading into the final period of play.
   Bearden came out in the fourth quarter going on a 10-4 run, with a bucket from Grant Domsic after a steal in the backcourt making it a 68-62 ball game.
   "I'm not going to beat my team up -- we played hard and probably ran out of gas at the end," said Ensor. "We were hesitant with the ball at times and had foul trouble, but I'm pretty pleased with the effort we played with."
   Unaka fell behind as many as nine points with three and a half minutes left, but the Rangers didn't quit though.
   A couple of three-point goals by Chambers and a free throw brought the Rangers back to within one possession of 78-75 with 16 seconds left.
   This was as close as it came with Bearden knocking down their final foul shots in the closing seconds.
   Holiday led all scores on the night with 34 points total, while Chambers put up 25 for the Rangers and Holtsclaw added 16.
   "Unaka played well enough to win the game. Their post players did a good job inside and Chambers hurt us, too," said Blevins. "We were able to get the ball off the boards in the second half and also some cheap baskets."
   Greeneville 65 OT
   Johnson County 61
   The Longhorns battled their way back in the second half to force their meeting with Greeneville into overtime, but it was the Greene Devils that came away with the victory.
   A three-point goal from Johnson County's Judd Shoun with 27 seconds left to play pushed the game to an extra four minutes of action, but a couple of goals underneath from Tracy Champon was all that Greeneville needed.
   "We had six varsity kids in football and a 6-5 kid on the side-line with the flu, and not taking anything away from them, but those guys really get after it," said Greeneville coach Billy Duncan.
   The Longhorns led after the first period by a score of 15-9. following an amazing shot from deep in the backcourt by Shoun at the buzzer.
   Greeneville came back to take a 19-18 lead with three minutes left in the second period, as it made 10 out of 11 free-shots from the charity stripe.
   The Greene Devils enjoyed a 28-21 lead at the break, but the Longhorns came out strong in the first four minutes of the third to take a one-point advantage off a three from Shoun.
   Greeneville was up 40-39 at the end of the third period, and the battle continued throughout the fourth.
   "It has never been a question of us having heart and battling hard, but we got ourselves in some foul trouble and I didn't think we rebound well," said Johnson County coach Austin Atwood.
   Johnson County grab a quick lead to start the final period on a turnaround basket by Jon Stout.
   Both the Longhorns and Greene Devils swapped the lead several times in the fourth as a long pass from Shoun found Michael Lipford on the break, giving Johnson Co. a 47-46 margin.
   "We didn't have any points from our post player until the second half, and we've got too get a little more persistent with our young guys," said Atwood.
   Greeeneville looked to close the contest after converting a field goal off a pass from Matt Duncan to Champon, but the Longhorns had two big threes from Shoun in the final minutes forcing the game to be settled in overtime.
   Johnson County struck first in OT with two free throws by Lipford, who finished with 17 points on the night.
   Greeneville came away with two buckets on the inside, one of which was converted into a three-point play, as Champon made the score and foul inside the paint.
   Greeneville struggled from the line in the last two minutes by hitting five of their 10 final foul shots, but the Longhorns couldn't capitalize on offense.
   "It came down with who was going to make the last mistake last was going to win the game," said Duncan. "That's what happens when you play this early in the season."
   Duncan scored 21 points to lead Greeneville, while Shoun knocked down five three-point goals with a total of 18 points.
   Sullivan East 74
   Unicoi County 71
   In the pairing of the Blue Devils of Unicoi County and Sullivan East Patriots, it came down to who shot the best ball from the perimeter in the second-half.
   The Patriots came away with nine three-point goals in the third and fourth quarter to give Sullivan East a 74-71 win over Unicoi County.
   "We had some guys step up for us and knock down the three, and the shooting from the outside was amazing, especially in the second half," said Sullivan East coach John Dyer. "I think we were 12 out of 18 for the game, and I thought our defensive pressure in the second half was better also."
   The Blue Devils had a 32-26 advantage at halftime, but Sullivan East was simply unstoppable from behind the arch, as Hunter Crowder and Donavan Dye both had four goals apiece.
   The Patriots built an eight-point lead heading into the final period, but Ryan Corn answered for Unicoi by nailing three treys and finishing with 19 points on the night, along with Travis Grindstaff who added 18.
   Unicoi had a chance in the final to tie the contest in the final five seconds, but Corn was put on the line after a bump trying to set up for the three.
   "We got hit with a mirage there, and I think they hit about 12 threes coming out in the third and fourth quarter," said Unicoi County coach Jon English. "In the second half we tried to trap, we tried to man, but give them a lot of credit for they were making plays."