Cloudland teams upend Little Milligan

  On Monday at Sonny Smith Gym, Cloudland won three middle school basketball contests, which were much more hard-fought than the scores might indicate, against the Little Milligan Buffaloes.
  Coach Randy Birchfield's varsity girls came into action with high expectations from their coach, and they didn't disappoint, prevailing by a 48-19 score.
  "This squad has a lot of potential," commented the veteran coach. "Our strengths are our depth, experience and leadership. We have nine players who can play from top to bottom."
  The coach was quick to credit Sydnie Buchanan with getting the Lady 'Landers off to a good start. The smooth Buchanan scored 12 first-quarter points.
  That offensive outburst and a tenacious fullcourt press led to a 24-2 Cloudland lead at the end of the first quarter.
  The second quarter featured a frenzied burst, with both teams trading baskets that made the score 33-8 with two minutes remaining in the half.
  Cloudland's Samantha Buchanan continued her first-half marksmanship with a setshot from just inside the arc, followed by a free throw by the Lady Buffs' Brittany Manuel to close out the first half scoring with Cloudland ahead 24-3.
  The Highlanders came out hustling to start the second half, with Brooke Johnson and Jordi Miller converting layups following steals forced by aggressive defense.
  With the score 42-9, Coach Birchfield pulled his starters and put in a unit composed of several girls who had played in the earlier JV contest, and the third period ended with Cloudland ahead 42-11.
  Several fresh faces came off the Highlander bench to start the final stanza, and a nice Kelly Stout to Sarah Calhoun pass led to a Little Milligan score that got their attention.
  The Cloudland subs immediately went to work pounding the offensive boards that eventually resulted in a bucket by Cessalie Severson and a score of 44-15.
  Amber Clawson then heated up for the Lady 'Landers, hitting two nice outside jumpers to up the score to 48-17 with under two minutes to play.
  Little Milligan's Kristi Robinson closed out the game's scoring, and Cloudland enjoyed a winning margin of 48-19.
  The Buffs' coach, David Cable, noted that he had a very young squad featuring only two eighth graders and two seventh graders, but that he has hopes that his girls "will come together by tournament time...maybe pull a few upsets."
  Birchfield, whose squad faces Central this Thursday, was particularly pleased with his team's offensive output and defensive effort, commenting, "We shot the ball well, and our 'd' was very good as a team...our press really caused problems."
  He complimented the Lady Buffs, saying they "are very well coached, and they played hard...they will win some games."
  The varsity boys' tilt opened up with both teams playing tough man-to-man defense. Smooth shooting guard Nick Sluder started the scoring for the Highlanders and was followed by a beautiful drive to the basket and old-fashioned 3-point play by Randall Johnson that gave the Roan Mountain boys an early 5-0 lead.
  Back-to-back traveling calls, followed by a double-dribble hampered the Buffaloes as they tried to break into the scoring column. Big Lucas Eklund finally broke the ice when he hit a free throw after putting back one of many offensive rebounds he pulled down in the game.
  The Cloudland fastbreak then hit another gear as the 'Landers got the ball out and down the court to the hustling Sluder for consecutive layups and a 14-1 lead before Eklund scored the Buffs' first bucket of the contest.
  Johnson then hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to end the first period with Cloudland comfortably ahead 17-3.
  The relentless Cloudland running game and a nice shooting performance by Logan Morgan off the bench highlighted a fast-paced second period that ended 37-5.
  Buff coach C.G. Hall drew a technical foul protesting physical, extracurricular activity under the Little Milligan bucket late in the third quarter that resulted in two free throws and a 43-12 lead.
  The game ended in a 52-21 victory for the talented Highlanders of rookie coach Todd Hill.
  "I expect a good season," Hill said. "We have good talent if we can put it together. Brent Powell did an outstanding job on defense, and Johnson and Sluder ran the fastbreak really well."
  Sluder led the 'Landers in scoring with 16, followed by Johnson with 11. Lucas Clawson and Jacob Julian had seven rebounds apiece.
  Hill also complimented the young Buffaloes of Hall, who is on back on the bench 45 years after his last coaching stint, a stop on the Martinsville (Va.) H.S. staff that produced three state champions.
  "They are very young, but they played hard and will be a good ball club before the season's over...that No. 42 (Eklund) is a heck of a ballplayer, one of the best we'll see all season."
  The JV Highlander girls jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter on their way to a 20-6 victory. The 'Landers were ld by Ashley Johnson's outstanding defensive play and floor leadership.