Lady Jr. Warriors overcome TAD


  
  The Happy Valley Middle School Lady Warriors defeated the Lady Cyclones of T.A. Dugger 42-35 Thursday night on their homecourt in one of the best-coached games a hoops fan could ever hope to witness.
  A packed house witnessed Coach Dana Hill's troops jump out to a commanding 11-0 first-quarter lead, pushing that margin to 23-7 at the halfway mark, only to see Coach Angie Barker's never-say-die Cyclones mount a furious second-half push that made an exciting game out of what first appeared to be a rout.
  "The kids were nervous in the first half,"said Barker, the 1988 NCAA women's shotput champion. "We knew we had to settle them down in the locker room at halftime."
  Courtney Byers started the scoring for the Warriors with a three-pointer off an inbounds pass at the 4:21 mark of the first quarter to put Happy Valley ahead 3-0.
  That score was followed by two Summer Ward fastbreak layups, a beautiful pass from guard Lindsey Toney to Sydney Skeans for another bucket, and a stickback off an offensive board by Toney to end the first period scoring with the Lady Warriors ahead 11-0.
   Barker had her team extend their 2-3 zone to start the second half, a move that frustrated the Happy Valley backcourt until the 3:48 mark, when Brittany Rice split the zone for a soft jumper in the lane that made it 13-0.
  Erin Anderson finally broke the ice for Dugger 14 seconds later when she hit a free throw to make the score 13-1.
  Coach Hill then put his team in a fullcourt press defense that resulted in numerous turnovers followed by two deep three-point bombs by Byers and several beautiful fastbreak passes for layups from Toney to her streaking teammates.
  With the score a seemingly unsurmountable 23-1 with just 56 seconds left to play in the half, Barker's Lady Cyclones finally woke up.
  Lauren Taylor scored two quick buckets in a nine second span, one off an offensive board and the other following a steal, to cut the lead to 23-5 with 24 ticks left on the clock, only to see teammate Madison McKinney bank in two free throws following a foul after another steal just 12 seconds later.
  That ended the first half scoring, with Happy Valley on top 23-7.
  The Cyclones maintained momentum as they came out of Coach Barker's halftime peptalk, with Mariah Pietrowski scoring just 10 seconds into the third quarter to make the score 23-9.
  T.A. Dugger then applied an effective press that resulted in several quick turnovers. With Pietrowski adding pressure in the paint with three blocked shots, the Lady 'Clones converted twice more in short order to cut further into the Happy Valley lead.
  McKinney showed off her long range shooting touch with a three from the top of the key, followed by two more points on a soft jumper from the foul line by Taylor Belessa, made the score 23-14.
  Summer Ward stopped the bleeding for Happy Valley by converting a layup for the Lady Wariors to up the score to 25-14 at the 4:42 mark.
  Coach Hill made some adjustments during an ensuing timeout, and watched his charges go back on the attack in a big way.
  Sydney Skeans came out of the Happy Valley huddle and scored on a bounce pass from teammate Ashley White on a spin move that was a thing of beauty.
  Ward then made one of two free throws, followed by a shot from the wing by Belessa of T.A. Dugger as she continued her second half scoring. The score stood at 28-16 at that point.
  Byers then resumed her long range arial attack, sinking another three-pointer, this one from the baseline, to make the score 31-16.
  With the Lady Warrior press forcing another steal, Byers scored again on a layup, soon followed by a baseline jumper by Madisson Barnett and a free throw by Skeans that upped the Warrior's lead to 20 points, leading the Cylcones 36-16 with 1:44 left in the quarter.
  Brittany Rice scored on another bigtime pass from Toney a minute later, and Dugger's Barnett hit a free throw after being fouled going to the bucket after a steal. That closed out the scoring after three periods.
  The T.A. Dugger squad went on a fourth-quarter tear, scoring nine unanswered points in exactly one minute, to cut the score from a margin of 42-24 with 3:16 left, to 42-33 with 2:16 left on the clock.
  Belessa hit a jumper from just inside the arc with just over a minute to play, her eighth point of the second half, to close out the game's scoring, the Lady Warriors of Happy Valley winning by a final of 42-35.
  The Lady Warriors were led in scoring by their long range weapon Byers, who had a huge first half and three three-pointers to wind up with game honors and 17 points. Ward threw in nine, followed by Rice with six.
  McKinney was the big gun for the Cyclones, with 12 points, and she was aided in the Dugger attack by Belessa's eight points, Pietrowski's timely six, and Taylor's five.
  Coach Hill, who played several JV players for much of the fourth quarter despite Dugger's push, was pleased with the game's outcome.
  "I thought my first and second units played excellent. I put that other group in late because the young kids have to learn to play under pressure. I explained that to the other kids."
  Hill went on to add, "Coach Barker did a great job. Her kids never gave up. They're a good team."
  The 2-0 Warriors return to action tomorrow night, taking on Unaka's eighth grade Lady Rangers in Unaka.
  Coach Barker was equally pleased with her gritty girls, despite the loss.
  "That was our real team that showed up to play in the second," she said. "The kids showed their true colors. They didn't quit. I have never been prouder of any group of kids."
  The Lady Cyclones start out this season 0-1, but don't expect them to reamain winless for long. Their next contest is with the Lady Bucs of University High next Tuesday at T.A. Dugger. JV action is scheduled for 5:30, with the varsity action to begin at 6:30.