HV spills Hampton


Photo by John Bryant
Closely defended by a pair of Lady Bulldogs, including Kelli Metcalf (44), Sydney Skeans of the Lady Jr. Warriors goes into a fadeaway shot.

  By Don Teague
  STAR STAFF
  dteague@starhq.com
  The Happy Valley Middle School varsity girls basketball team survived a terrible day at the foul line, hitting just one of 13 free throw attempts, as they put away their visiting cross-county rivals from Hampton Monday afternoon by a score of 31-22.
  The Lady Jr. Bulldogs fared no better from the charity stripe, missing all seven of their chances, as the two teams hit only five percent -- a combined 1-of-20 -- from the line for the contest.
  Both coaches were perplexed by the free-throw dilemma.
  "I don't know if Thanksgiving break had anything to do with it," mulled HV coach Dana Hill. "That's just not like us."
  Bulldog coach Ronnie Street added: "We practice free throws and practice them, but when we get in a game, it seems like we just can't make them. I don't know what it is."
  Happy Valley came out of the gates quickly to start the game, needing only 14 seconds for 3-point specialist Courtney Byers to drop in one of her bombs to give the Lady Warriors 3-0 lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
  Byers, perhaps the finest outside shooter among area middle school cagers, would hit two threes in the contest on her way to eight points for the game.
  Lindsey Toney added four more points for the Lady Warriors as they took an 11-6 lead at the end of the first period.
  Happy Valley turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, and Summer Ward scored six of her game-high 10 points in the period to send the Warriors to the intermission enjoying their largest lead of the game, 22-8.
  Coach Street's Lady 'Dogs came out scrapping in the third period, outscoring the Warriors by an 8-3 margin until HV's Toney nailed a long line drive from just inside the arc to send the game into the final quarter with Happy Valley leading 27-16.
  Mikki Oliver had a big third quarter for the 'Dogs, scoring six of her eight for the game in that frame.
  "Mikki played better in the second half," observed Street. "She has to score for us and run our offense."
  Neither team displayed much offense in the last quarter, with Hampton outscoring the Warriors only 6-4, but much of that was due to very tough defense played by both squads.
  "The girls played hard," said Street, "and Josie McKinney played extremely hard. She made a couple of unbelievable layups...but we were just outmatched heighth-wise."
  Coach Hill commented on the height advantage his team owns: "We're so much taller than everyone else...we have to take advantage of that. We had a little powwow at halftime because we weren't hitting the boards as hard as we'd like."
  The powwow worked - Sydney Skeans and Summer Ward did excellent boardwork for the HV crew in the second half, helping their team remain unbeaten at 6-0 on the season.
  Ward scored 10 points to lead all scorers, and Oliver and McKinney had eight apiece for the Lady Bulldogs, who drop to 4-2.
  Happy Valley plays Science Hill today at Indian Trail, and Hampton will play host to Unaka at home on Thursday.
  In varsity boys action, the Bulldogs of coach Leon Tolley and the Warriors of coach Rik Anderson set the tone for a physical, low-scoring game with very tough man defense being played by both teams from the opening tip.
  Hampton took a 6-5 lead into the second quarter, holding Happy Valley to one first-quarter field goal, and held a 10-7 lead with only 1:10 left in the first half before HV's Ethan Fleenor converted a three-point play that tied the score.
  Zack Miller then made two big plays for the Warriors, stealing a pass and taking it to the house and scoring on an inbounds play with just three seconds left to put the HV hoopers up 14-10 at the halfway point of a contest they would win by a final of 36-17.
  Brandon Burchfield, the smallest player on the court, had the biggest impact in a second half dominated by Happy Valley.
  Burchfield, who went to the bench after picking up two quick fouls early in the game, didn't waste time making his return felt, hitting a big three just seconds into the third quarter.
  He added three free throws in the fourth to go along with several nice passes for assists, and his return settled down the Warrior offense. He finished with eight points for the game.
  "Our philosophy is if you get two fouls in the first half, normally you sit, and I knew how much we were probably gonna need Brandon in the second half," explained Anderson.
  Hampton got only field goal for the entire second half, and only one point from anyone other than Cody Clemons, who led all scorers with 10, as a lid seemed to drop on the goal at the Bulldog end of the court.
  "We are not real good finishers," stated Tolley, when asked about his teams problems scoring from down low. "I can't fault their effort. "But until we stop beating ourselves with turnovers and mental lapses, we're just not going to get any better."
  Tolley complimented his opponents: "Hats off to Happy Valley. They are well-coached and did a good job executing."
  "This was probably the best job we've done so far executing our offense," acknowledged Anderson. "We feel if we do that, we can get some good looks at the basket, and in the second half we did."
  Anderson's Warriors, who improve to 2-3, return to action Friday when they travel to Johnson County to tackle the Longhorns. The 'Dogs (0-6) will look to break into the win column against Unaka at home on Thursday.