Unaka controls Central

Photo by Kristen Luther
Michael Bowers of Unaka goes up with the ball inside as Central’s Clint Hoilman tries to disrupt his shot. Adrian Hopson of the Comets looks on.

  The Central girls hung around all night against the Lady Jr. Rangers, but Unaka kept just enough distance to oust them in a 33-27 final on Monday at Central.
  After falling behind the Comets in the early going, Unaka was able to take control and not surrender its advantage the rest of the way to grab first place in the conference.
  "It was a big win for us because we came down here last year and they beat us and then in the tournament, so the girls were wanting to get back at them," said Unaka coach Don Parkey. "We didn't shoot well, and didn't shoot free throws at all, but the girls played hard."
  Central came out strong with baskets inside from Whitney Murray and Laura Moore.
  The Rangers stormed back to grab the lead and not look back when Kayleigh Elsea converted a lay-up off a fast break with 38 seconds left in the first period.
  Unaka led 6-4 after quarter one, and a Kayla Wilson bucket down low pushed the Ranger edge to six early in quarter two.
  The Rangers went up by as many as eight during the second period, after a rebound from Brittany Hughes and break-away opportunity for Natalie Johnson gave them a 14-6 lead.
  "We stayed in and battled them hard. We knew coming down here they would get after us and go all over the court after the basketball," Parkey said. "We just played hard and made the buckets when we needed them, and now we've beat them down here, so they'll have to come back up to our place. So it was a big win for us."
  Central finished the quarter on a good note by scoring the next five points, and a shot from Sarah Arnett drew them to within three at the half.
  Unaka boosted its lead back to six after a couple of in-bounds plays resulted in scores coming from Hughes and Wilson.
  The Rangers enjoyed a 24-18 lead at the end of the third period, and a basket from Hughes down low off a pass from Whitney Grindstaff matched their biggest lead of the game with 4:05 left to play.
  Central rallied back to within four after a shot from Emily Bradley and a couple of free throws from Murray, but this was as close as the Comets would come.
  A crucial fifth foul on Murray was called with 2:05 left in the contest, as early foul trouble hurt the Comets, who had to deal with lack of size and rebounding underneath.
  Both teams struggled from the foul line throughout, as neither team was able to take advantage from the charity stripe.
  "Foul shots -- we just have to start hitting them. There's no excuse in missing that many -- we could of had the lead by 10," said Central assistant coach Lisa Sisk. "We're still committing too many silly fouls, but it was a good ball game between two evenly-matched ball clubs."
  The Rangers converted two big scores in the final two minutes, with the first one coming off a drive from Elsea and the other by Wilson on a basket inside to put the game out of reach.
  "Parkey always does a good job of moving his kids around, and we'll just look forward coming up against them at their place," Sisk said. "Maybe we can turn the tables the next time around, but I know what we'll be working on in practice next, and that's free throws."

  Unaka 52

  Central 32
  It was a slugfest from the start, but the Jr. Rangers kept their undefeated status by turning up the wick after the first period and cruising to a win over Central.
  The Comets came out giving Unaka some of their best shots during the first quarter, but when things settled down the Rangers defense took over to shut down Central's offense.
  "I don't think we came out ready to play. We didn't execute defensively or offensively," said Unaka coach Mark Revis. "It took us until the second quarter to get up, and once we did that in the second and third periods, then I think we really took control of the game."
  A basket from Adrian Hopson plus the foul give Central an early 3-0 lead, but Unaka responded with a shot from James Coffey along the baseline, and a three from Adam Colbaugh to grab the advantage.
  Central fought back to retake the lead with 2:30 left to play in quarter one, after Daniel Loveless sank two free-throws.
  The contest was tied with second winding down when Jeff Peters made a drive and shot to give the Rangers a 15-13 lead at the end of the period.
  Peters finished as the game's high scorer with a total of 19 points, while Colbaugh dumped in 15 points.
  Unaka turned it up a notch on defense the next two quarters, as it outscored Central 13-4 in each period.
  "We were trying to work the ball inside, but they were giving us shots outside and we were shooting ourselves out of it," Revis said. "Once we started working the ball inside and getting fouls or whatever is when we started turning the game around."
  Several turnovers converted into baskets from Peters and Colbaugh gave the Rangers a 28-17 lead by halftime.
  Central continued to have limited offense during the third period, with one field goal along with two free throws coming from Hopson, who led the Comets with 16 points.
  A 12-foot jumper from Roger Bailey with 55 seconds left increased the Unaka lead to 20 with the third period ending at 41-21.
  "We had a lot of turnovers, and against a team as good as Unaka is you can't make that many turnovers," said Central coach Lamont Barnett. "I give them credit for putting pressure on us and forcing them turnovers, but there's a few things we need to work on to improve our game."
  The Comets were successful in producing points the final period, but it was not enough to overcome the Ranger mid-game assault.
  "We hustled and played hard, but we didn't score enough points to beat anybody tonight," Barnett said. "We blew some lay-ups and shot poorly from the foul line, so we know what we've got to work on."