Patriots fend off Rangers

By Marvin Birchfield

   BLUFF CITY--The Rangers were unable to overcome a flat tire in the third-quarter offense, as Sullivan East came away with a 66-59 victory at Patriot Palace.
   Unaka was able to battle back several times after trailing, but didn't quite get the breaks needed in the closing minutes of the contest.
   "I thought we played hard all game, but it was the same situation as Monday night. We were not knocking down any shots," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor.
   Sullivan East came out to grab the early advantage, when Brian Milhorn and Hunter Crowder hit shots from beyond the arch.
   "The outside is our strong point. We're not very big, but we usually shoot pretty good," said Crowder.
   The Patriots opened up a five-point lead in the first quarter as Donavan Dye made good on a drive inside, while Seth Hayes knocked down a three-pointer.
   Two scores on the inside from Josh Jones and a three-point shot in the final minute by Daniel McInturff tied the contest at 15-15 to end the quarter.
   "Tonight our big people probably played the best they have all year. We rebounded a lot better tonight, and if they can bring that effort and mentality, then we're going to be OK," said Ensor.
   Sullivan East came out strong to start the second period, when three straight threes gave them a nine-point advantage with 4:35 left until half.
   The first shot came from Hayes, followed with two threes by Crowder, who led the Patriots by scoring 18 points.
   "It was mainly the teams job in pitching the ball out, when we're not getting the shot inside," said Crowder.
   It took Unaka three and a half minutes to score in the second period, when Rusty Chambers drove inside for the score along with a foul for the three-point play.
   The Rangers managed to score the rest of the points in the quarter, trimming the Patriot lead to one at the break.
   Two free-throws from Jones made it 24-23 as the Rangers were almost perfect in the first-half from the line by hitting 10-of-11 from the charity stripe.
   Unaka grabbed the early lead in the second half, after Chambers connected inside the paint to make it 25-24 in favor of the Rangers.
   Chambers finished with 23 points on the night, and Jones added 12 to give Unaka a solid performance on the inside.
   Sullivan East took away the momentum during the third period by getting a couple of threes near the end of the quarter from Dusty Craig.
   "I had three sophomore guards that stepped up, and it was a pretty good effort from those guys out there," said Sullivan East coach John Dyer.
   The Patriots built a 43-34 lead heading into the final quarter, as time was becoming a factor for the Rangers.
   Sullivan East enjoyed a 10-point margin with 2:27 left in the game, after a blocking call on Cody Collins drew a technical from the Unaka bench.
   Ensor felt like his player was set, but the call went in favor of the Patriots, which ended up in a three-point swing.
   The Rangers showed great heart in the final two minutes, as they closed the margin down to four with 25 seconds left on the clock.
   A steal by Chambers and fast break, followed by a three he knocked down, gave the Rangers a window of hope with little time left.
   Collins hit a three to make it 61-57, but some solid free-throw shooting from the Patriots down the stretch helped secure their win.
   "In the last few minutes we didn't play good defense, and we're going to have to learn how to protect a 10-point lead without fouling and giving up easy shots," said Dyer.