Central rolls past Rangers

By Marvin Birchfield

   BLOUNTVILLE -- The Sullivan Central Cougars reached the century mark and routed the Unaka Rangers at the Cougar Cage by a final of 100-59 on Friday night.
   "I don't know if we got tired or what, but they did a good job at executing against our press and knocked down some big shots," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor.
   The Rangers kept it close through the first 10 minutes of play, but never could manage to get out in front of the Cougars.
   Sullivan Central scored their first field goal off of a three-point shot from Matthew Hobbs, leading them to a 9-2 advantage in the first few minutes.
   Unaka fought back with an impressive performance from Ben Cole, who lead the Rangers on the night with 19 points.
   Nine of those came in the first quarter, going four of seven from the field.
   The Rangers were able to pull within three, after trailing as many as eight points behind, when Aaron Dugger nailed a couple of threes to close the gap to 22-19 with a minute left.
   Unaka came out in the second period and were successful in tying the contest at 26 apiece by hitting five of six shots from the free-throw line.
   And Dustin Collins knotted it again at 28 with a bucket before Sullivan Central went on a 12-0 run with 3:30 left until the half.
   It was Josh Crain who led the Cougars, scoring 23 of his 24 points in the first half, with five buckets coming from three-point land.
   The Cougars had built a 13-point lead by halftime with the score being 55-42.
   In the third quarter, it was all Sullivan Central which outscored and overran Unaka 33-4.
   The Rangers had trouble with the press, which created easy scoring opportunities for the Cougars.
   "We changed up our press a little bit that helped us, and of course we picked up the tempo also," said Sullivan Central coach Tony Vaughn.
   Crain continued to light up the basket, and Cole went down for the Rangers due to an ankle injury with 4:56 left in the third.
   Cole was not able to return to the game, which was crucial to the Ranger offense.
   "I would have liked to of stayed in and played the second half, but that was about the best shooting from Crain that I have seen one person do," said Cole.
   The quick guard play and inside game of Sullivan Central was just too much for Unaka, as they fell behind 88-46 at the end of the third period.
   "We have to get better offensively and defensively, and acquire some speed and depth," Ensor said. "Our schedule doesn't get any easier."
   The Cougars maintained their big lead in the fourth, and the crowd erupted in the final seconds of play when Zack Frye finished the fast break to reach the one-hundred point mark.
   "It was a team win defensively, and Josh carried us early in scoring then everybody else got hot after that," said Vaughn.
   Junior Varsity
   The Unaka Rangers fell to Sullivan Central in junior varsity play by the final of 59-45 Friday.
   Unaka trailed by only six at halftime 31-25, but it was the third-quarter performance by Brian Self that opened up the game for the Cougars.
   Self finished with the game-high scoring of 14 points upon the night, half of those coming in the third period.
   Cody Collins topped the Rangers with 11 points, followed by teammates Josh Jones and Rusty Chambers, who had nine each.
   "We're pretty young right now, and they seem to have trouble maintaining in the execution of high school basketball," said Unaka coach Johnny Ensor.