Lady Tigers edge HV, Cloudland  ends TAD streak

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   At the beginning of the Hunter and Happy Valley girls game in the Cloudland Christmas Tournament, you could immediately tell that the winner would prevail on defense. And an amazing quarter of defense by the Hunter Lady Tigers led them to a tough 28-24 win over Happy Valley.
   "I believe they came together as a team tonight," said Hunter coach Tammy Taylor. "They played hard both offensively and defensively, and the subs played as well as the starters. We felt like we came here as the underdog, and have shown that we are as good as we were last year. We are ready for the championship."
   The game started out with back-to-back buckets from both squads, but an amazing defensive battle between Hunter's Logan Wagonseller and Happy Valley's Amber Duncan kept the game close in the beginning. Sam Canter would step up for the Lady Warriors and score twice to give them an 8-6 lead after the first period.
   The second period was a basic repeat of the earlier frame, as Happy Valley's Randi Williams and Hunter's Sallee Taylor led both teams to a 12-12 share at the end of the first half.
   "I think we played good at the end of the first half," said Hunter's Taylor, who led all scores with 11, "We came out in the second and fell behind, but by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, we were ready to play."
   Happy Valley began a strong charge in the third quarter, behind the powerful Williams and Canter, leading by as much as eight. However, Taylor and Wagonseller wouldn't allow their team to give up, pulling within six going into the fourth.
   The fourth quarter was the highlight of the evening, as both teams led strong defensive charges. But Happy Valley would miss some key shots, allowing Hunter to make a strong comeback early taking a lead into the final seconds of the game.
   The Lady Warriors got their breaks, however they couldn't capitalize at the end, as Kristen Grindstaff's last second free throw put it away 28-24. It was a testament to Hunter's strong defense, that held Happy Valley to zero points in the fourth.
   "Our shots didn't fall tonight," said Happy Valley coach Dana Hill. "Hunter played well and made the buckets when they needed too. We just came up short."
   Hill was proud of his team's efforts, but like many other coaches was glad to fit in the tournament experience early in the season.
   "You really get to see what they are made of. You see if they can come out strong, or just quit. It truly is gutcheck time, tonight they played good, it just wasn't meant to be."
   Winners Bracket Semifinal
   Cloudland (8th) - 52
   T.A. Dugger (7th) -30
   The earlier semifinal matchup was one of significant proportions, as the undefeated 7th grade powerhouse T.A. Dugger Lady Cyclones met a challenge with the undefeated 8th grade stronghold Cloudland Lady Highlanders.
   It was a good test early for the Lady Cyclones, but experience and power elevated the Lady Highlanders to a 52-30 win.
   "We played hard and gave a lot of effort," said Cloudland coach Mike Lunsford. "I was very impressed. We need to work on our rebounds and I saw some things we can improve on."
   The game opened with T.A. Dugger playing some stellar defense, but Cloudland was just too much, with Jessica Ledford and Keisha Miller leading the 'Landers to a 13-4 lead after one.
   Cloudland had a very strong start in the second, as Jessica Lunsford, who led all scores with 18, and Heather Banner (15 points), helped the Lady Landers get out to a dominating lead. But the Lady 'Clones wouldn't ease any, scoring an impressive eight straight points to close the gap on Cloudland 27-12 after the first half.
   T.A. Dugger charged strong at the beginning of the second half, as Victoria Hopson, who led the team with 17 points, and Mikael Oliver (11 points) made some tough plays, helping their squad close in by as much as eight.
   Cloudland then hit their switch, dominating every aspect of the game taking a strong charge from Daranda Byrd and Natasha Miller, who helped topple T.A. Dugger's strong play from Brianne Gouge and Cortney Towle with a 36-19 lead after three.
   The fourth quarter featured some strong scoring from both ends, but Cloudland (12-0) ended up pulling it away 52-30.
   "I knew we would have a hard time with Lunsford and the players he brought to the court," said T.A. Dugger 7th grade coach Doug Fritz. "Our girls played their hearts out, and hit some key shots in the third that could've kept us in it. They were just overpowered by a good team, but I am still proud of them."
   Despite the loss, it was an impressive showing from the Lady Cyclones (9-1).
   "The reason this team is so good is because of Harry Farthing and Dave Hilton, they deserve the credit for this team."
   Cloudland's coach Mike Lunsford has been thrilled with the tournament and its followers.
   "It has been a well-accepted tournament, we have had some great help from the parents and had a great turnout. I appreciate every one of these teams and the people involved. If anybody wants to see some good ball, they need to come out here tomorrow night."
   Cloudland and Hunter will meet for the championship at 7:00, while T.A Dugger's 7th graders and Happy Valley will battle it out at 6:00.
   Losers Bracket Game Two
   T.A. Dugger (8th) - 45
   Cloudland (7th) - 18
   It was a classic story of 'David and Goliath' in the second losers bracket game, only this time the giant won as the tough T.A. Dugger Lady Cyclones overpowered the Cloudland 7th Grade Lady 'Landers 45-18.
   It was a very tight game early as it proved to be a defensive battle between Cloudland and T.A. Dugger, as Cameron Crapps, Eden Treadway, and Katie Hubbard dominated all phases of the Cloudland game early. The Roan-Town girls wouldn't give up, as Daranda Byrd and Rachael Milner pulled them within four after one.
   The second quarter was the last fight for the Lady Landers as Nikki Carrow and Holly Byrd headed up a strong 'Lander effort that tied the Lady Cyclones 14-14 at the end of the half.
   The second half can only be summed up with two words, Takesha Avery.
   Avery, who didn't start the game, powered her way to a strong 15-point effort, all in the second half to put it away for the T.A. Dugger Girls.
   They led the Lady Landers to only four second half points, stepping it up to take the 46-18 win.
   "We played harder in the second half than we did in the first," said T.A. Dugger 8th Grade coach David Hilton, "We have been working on playing 100 percent in all of our games. We were fortunate enough to play a lot of people tonight. I'm real tickled with the win, everybody played hard and I appreciate their effort."
   Hubbard (9 points), Treadway (8 points) and Crapps (6 points) helped lead the Cyclones. Rachael Milner's seven and Daranda Byrd's five pushed the Lady 'Landers.
   Losers Bracket Game One
   Johnson County - 27
   Little Milligan - 18
   In the first game of the afternoon, Johnson County fought back a tough seven-point Little Milligan Lady Buffalo lead to take a 27-18 win to advance to the consolation game.
   Little Milligan had a strong showing early from Andrea Tinsman and Jessica Price, taking a good lead into the locker rooms at the half. However, turnovers and missed shots would help Johnson County.
   Led by tough play on both sides of the ball from April McCloud, the Lady 'Horns took over halfway through the third quarter, and made a strong charge in the fourth quarter to hold off the charging Buffaloes 27-18.
   "We played well in the second half," said Johnson County coach Steve Nave. "We picked it up defensively, but our offense is not where we want it. But it helped us tonight. Little Milligan has a good team, and come a long way this year. We are just glad to get this one."
   McCloud led all scores with 10, Tinsman led Little Milligan with seven.
   T.A. Dugger will take on Johnson County in tomorrow's 5 p.m. consolation game.