Collins, Unaka shoot down Warriors

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT

   The Unaka Rangers received excellent marksmanship shooting to battle past the Happy Valley Warriors in a 64-45 victory at Bayless Gym on Friday.
   "I thought our shot selection was a lot better tonight," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "We've got some people that can shoot if they take the proper shots."
   Cody Cannon scored the first bucket of the game to give the Warriors their only lead in the contest, as Unaka responded with back-to-back goals from Ben Cole.
   The Warriors closed the margin trailing by two, when Chris Campbell made a nice spin move on the inside.
   It was Aaron Dugger scoring the last six of Unaka's points in the period that put them ahead 12-9 after the first quarter of play.
   The Rangers built a 10-point lead with three minutes left in the second period when Dustin Collins knocked down a three-pointer, one of his four that came in the second quarter.
   Campbell pulled Happy Valley within eight points with a minute left before halftime as he made a nice left-hand underhanded shot while drawing a foul with the three-point conversion.
   But this quarter belonged to Collins, as he drilled a NBA range three-point shot in the closing seconds to give Unaka a 35-24 lead at the half.
   "I came in here and shot pretty good in warmups, and the ball was just falling," Collins said. "But that isn't going to happen every game for defense is what will win the game, and we did a good job doing it tonight."
   Happy Valley tried to make a comeback in the third quarter with Jordy Harrison knocking down a 15-foot jumper.
   Josh Blevins responded for the Rangers sinking a couple of free throws, and using a spin move to pour in a bucket.
   Lamar Rollins rebounded a missed shot to get the putback, but Dugger was able to handle a deflected pass and score the field goal to push the Ranger lead to 12 with 3:15 left in the third period.
   "We're not a good shooting ballclub, and when they play a zone we just can't hit," said Happy Valley coach Charlie Bayless. "When you go 2 of 18 from the three-point area it is no good."
   The Warriors managed to convert on the last six points of the quarter, which drew them within eight heading into the final period.
   Unaka came out in the fourth quarter and started to flex their muscles with Cole receiving a pass inside, getting the bucket and the foul.
   Cody Cannon grabbed a rebound and made the putback to keep the Warriors within striking distance, but this period belonged to the Rangers as they went on a 14-2 run with just three minutes left in regulation.
   "I thought it looked more like Unaka basketball tonight," Ensor said. "We played more as a team, and our defense played much better than what it has been."
   Collins ended the contest by connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to score a game-high 26 points, ending up with seven trays on the night.
   "Anytime you lose your first five games it's tough for both me and the boys, probably even more so on them than me," Bayless said. "I've been through this."
   Lady Warriors 60
   Lady Rangers 52
   The Happy Valley Lady Warriors survived a late-minute rally to post a 60-52 final over the Unaka Lady Rangers at Bayless Gym on Friday.
   "We missed a lot of free throws, plus one of our starters was out due to an injury suffered in practice the other day," said Unaka coach Kenneth Chambers. "So we were down to two seniors and the rest freshmen."
   It was the senior leaders, Brandi Morgan, who finished with 17 points, and Kandra Roberts, ending up with 15, that helped the Warriors achieve their third victory on the season.
   "I'm really proud of our team. The first couple of games we didn't play together, but now there are people stepping up," said Roberts.
   Julie Roberson led the Rangers in the first quarter with six points to give Unaka a slight advantage of 11-10 after the period.
   Roberts posted five points for the Warriors in the first, with teammates Mandy Byrd and Whitney Crowe contributing field goals.
   The Warriors came out in the second quarter to grab the lead as they rained in the first seven points, with Brandi Dugger connecting on one of their three shots from the field.
   Unaka received some offense on the inside from freshman Danielle Ensor, but it was Morgan that took control for the Warriors down low, giving them a 30-18 lead heading into the half after going on a 13-5 run.
   "I was pleased with our pressure in the first half. We've been working on it in the last couple of weeks in getting into the passing lanes," said Happy Valley coach Ben Godsey.
   Happy Valley maintained its advantage in the third quarter, with Byrd giving them their biggest margin of seventeen with two minutes left.
   The Rangers made a late charge as Alesha Buckles nailed a three to keep Happy Valley within sight going into the last period.
   Halfway through the fourth it looked as if the Warriors would cruise to a victory, but the hustle of Unaka and visits to the free throw line proved that this game wasn't over just yet.
   "I was pleased proud of all the girls. They hustled and played as a team toward the end of the game," said Chambers.
   The Rangers were 10-of-18 at the stripe in the final period, helping them close the deficit to four with under a minute to play, along with some tough rebounding coming from Roberson.
   "At the end of the game we made some mistakes with committing fouls and letting the pressure get to us," Godsey said.
   A pass from Roberts to Morgan with the bucket and foul helped seal the win for Happy Valley, as the three-point play was converted with 38 seconds left.