Cloudland girls win big, boys lose in OT

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The Cloudland Lady Highlanders continued their winning ways heavily on Tuesday night with a dominating 73-39 victory over the Tri-Cities Christian Lady Eagles.
   "We did pretty good," said Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield. "We played much better offense and more scoring from all of our kids. We cut down on our turnovers and pressured them a little bit.
   "They came out and shot well in the third, but I think the seniors came out and did a better job as a team tonight."
   Cloudland opened the contest on a 16-0 run offensively led by dominate performances out of Holly Blair and Stachia Johnson.
   Megan Sharpe bounced in a basket for the Lady Eagles, when Tara Hanson responded with some good deep shooting as the Lady 'Landers took a 22-3 lead after the first quarter.
   The second quarter provided much of the same for Cloudland. Amy Storie and April Williams connected well, while freshman Jessica Lunsford and Jessica McGuire provided good connection for the Highlanders.
   Valerie Kain and Lacy Snyder helped get the Lady Eagles back into the mix of things, cutting Cloudland down to a 42-15 margin at halftime.
   Cloudland opened the third quarter with good shots from Blair and Heather Banner helped Cloudland hold a steady lead. The Lady Eagles bounced back efficiently with some shots from Snyder, Sharpe, Sunnie Zippman, and Rose Pezzimenti.
   However, Cloudland's bench came back with a strong effort out of Williams, and Tiffany Watts. Some clutch defense from Rebecca Clawson, Ashley Norman, and Nikki Webb held Tri-Cities to nine points in the fourth quarter as Cloudland took the big win.
   Tara Hanson led Cloudland with 14 points, while Stachia Johnson and Holly Blair tipped in 13 a piece. April Williams had 11 points, while Rose Pezzimenti led the Lady Eagles with 13 points.
   Said Birchfield: "I thought Holly played much better tonight; April stepped up and connected big for us. It was an overall good effort."
   Cloudland hosts Unicoi County this Friday night in what should be a good showdown in Roan Mountain.
   "Coach Fisher does a great job up there," Birchfield said. "They are a real good team. We've just got to step up and play good defense against them. They shoot it well, and make very few mistakes."
   Game time is 6.
   Tri-Cities Christian 60
   Cloudland 56
   The Cloudland Highlander basketball team bounced back after a losing football game Friday night with some of its returning starters and got their selves into a battle.
   Only practicing one day, the Highlanders bounced back after trailing the entire contest to force Tri-Cities Christian into overtime. However, some mishandling late gave the Eagles a 60-56 victory in Smith Gymnasium.
   "I thought the kids played as hard as they could, and they showed a lot of heart," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "Obviously, we haven't seen a lot of practice coming in.
   We came back strong, but our shots didn't go down. It will take us a little time, but once we get some time under our belt, we'll be all right."
   It was a tight contest at the beginning, with David Rudd and Brian Gillette leading Tri-Cities to an overwhelming advantage in the first few minutes.
   However, Cole Gouge and Josh Johnson got their game going, and helped Cloudland pull within a 11-10 margin after the first period.
   Tri-Cities got the upper hand in the next period with some big plays from Ben Blessing and Rich Crain, David Rudd continued his ways as Gouge continued to fight for Cloudland.
   Luke Hampton and Philip Lewis bounced into the second half for Tri-Cities taking a demanding eight point lead over Cloudland. However, with some big plays from Greg Birchfield and Cooke, the Highlanders began a strong comeback run.
   Gouge nailed some big buckets in the fourth quarter to bring Cloudland back into a tie ballgame at the end of regulation. In overtime, Philip Lewis and Rich Crain hit some big free throws, and Cloudland got plagued with a lot of fundamental calls as the Eagles took the victory.
   Cloudland saw three players foul out in the contest, which marked the return of most of their football players out of action. It was a remarkable performance for Gouge, who scored 28 points in the contest, which was his first time back on the basketball court.
   "We did pretty good coming back out," said Gouge. "We just need to stay out of foul trouble and practice some more. It feels good to get going, I think we'll be fine."
   Cloudland received some bad news this weekend with an injury to Mark Byrd which occurred during the semi-final football game.
   A broken hand and hurt shoulder will keep him our for four to six weeks of basketball action.
   David Rudd led the Eagles with 13 points, while Brian Gillette had 11.