Unaka's Dugger 'be-devils' Gate City

By Matt Hill

   BRISTOL-- Aaron Dugger is like money in the bank. The Unaka Rangers are safe and secure with him on the floor.
   Dugger nailed the game-winning free-throw with 1.2 seconds to go to give Unaka a 55-54 victory over the Gate City Blue Devils Thursday afternoon in the consolation bracket of the Arby's Classic.
   Dugger attempted to win the game with a field goal, but was fouled during the shot.
   "He got me a little bit on the wrist," Dugger said. "It was enough to alter my shot."
   Dugger went to the foul line needing to make only one of two free-throws to pretty much seal the deal, but Dugger missed the first one.
   Dugger redeemed himself with the second attempt, but he actually felt better about the first shot.
   "The first one actually felt better than the second one because I felt like the first one was in." Dugger said.
   Unaka head coach Donald Ensor thought Dugger, who scored 32 points on the afternoon, was key in the Rangers' victory.
   "He was the one that allowed us to take the lead," Ensor said. "He made some big shots."
   Dugger had to pick up the slack late in the game when fellow Ranger star Ben Cole fouled out with 4:30 to go in the contest. Dugger responded by tying the game twice with big shots.
   "That hurt us when Ben went out with foul trouble," Ensor said. "Ben was on pace to have a good game, too."
   Unaka took its first lead since early in the first quarter when Josh Jones hit a free-throw to put the Rangers up 54-53 with 3:03 left to go.
   Gate City's Robert Clark scored 13 in the first two periods, but only had six in the second half for a total of 19. This was big in the Rangers second half comeback.
   "Aaron matched up with him a lot in the second half, and defended him pretty well," Ensor said. "He was a pretty good sized fellow."
   Unaka is one the smallest schools enrollment wise to ever play in the Arby's Classic, so this is a big win for the program.
   "It's a shot in the arm to our program to get invited, let alone get a win in it," Ensor said. "We're going to play our third game over here on championship night."
   That will be Monday afternoon at 12 noon against an opponent to be determined.
   Cole was the only other player to hit double figures for Unaka with his 15-point performance.
   Unaka improves to 8-7 with the win.