Lady 'Landers lose to THS

By Marvin Birchfield

   After getting out to a fast start, the Lady Highlanders ran out of both steam and bodies to keep up the pace with Tennessee High, as they fell 53-44 in Valley Forge Auction Ladies' Thanksgiving Classic action on Wednesday night.
   Cloudland grabbed a 13-3 lead at the 3:20 mark of the first period, as the Lady 'Landers were executing on the offensive end and making it look easy.
   "We came out real strong and got a pretty good lead, and that's what we needed to do," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield. "I thought we got a little tired with their pressure, so they got some turnovers and big shots that reversed the game on us."
   The Lady Vikings struck first in the contest, getting a three-point goal from Courtney Watkins on their opening possession.
   The 'Landers came back to score 13 unanswered points, as a couple of buckets inside from Kayla Blevins and April Williams gave them a 10-point advantage.
   Cloudland was just as strong from the outside during the first, with two three-point goals coming from Jessica Lunsford and Crystal Arnold.
   The 'Landers were led by Arnold in scoring. She finished the game with 12 points, and Lunsford posted a total of 10 during the contest.
   Tennessee High made a rally in the final minute of the period, as a three-point goal was hit by Courtney Reed, and another by Laura Counts at the buzzer.
   Things started to slow down for Cloudland to start the second quarter of play.
   The 'Landers posted just seven points opposed to the 18 they acquired in the first.
   "Their defense really dictated what we did as the game progressed," said Birchfield. "We did a real good job early by getting the lead, but we have learn how to handle the defense and pressure a little better."
   The Vikings started chipping away at Cloudland's lead in the second, and by the end of the period they had cut the deficit to two points with a 25-23 'Lander advantage.
   Cloudland managed to hold onto its lead through the first part of the third period.
   A drive by Lunsford inside the paint put the 'Landers up 31-28 with nearly four minutes left in the third.
   Tennessee High went on a 10-0 run after that point to give itself a 38-31 lead by period's end, as Alex Lyons hit a 12-foot jumper at the buzzer.
   The Vikings did a much better job in the second half of controlling the boards and wearing down the 'Landers with their press.
   "We had just five boards offensively and defensively at halftime, and I think our depth helped us late. We were running people in and out, and they were just playing with six or seven, " said Tennessee High coach Kim Bright.
   Cloudland hung tough in the final period, although it experienced some foul trouble with a shallow bench.
   The Vikings finished the night with Watkins hitting four of four at the charity stripe, and she led Tennessee High with a total of 16 points for the game.
   "They have a great team at Cloudland, but I my kids did a good job -- they didn't panic and were able to come back," said Bright. "Late I thought they did a lot of good things like hitting free-throws and taking care of the ball."