Unaka girls down Pats, move to 5-0

By Marvin Birchfield

   BLUFF CITY--The Lady Rangers kept their perfect record intact on Friday by defeating Sullivan East in a 58-56 final to score their fifth victory of the season.
   Unaka's shooting from the perimeter became a factor in the second half, as the Lady Rangers hit four three-point goals to edge out the Lady Patriots.
   "We played together as a team, and we had different players step up at different times to do some scoring for us," said Lady Ranger coach Kenneth Chambers.
   The Rangers led 12-9 after the first period of play, with Kelly Taylor converting a couple of scores and Lacey Gouge knocking down the three.
   Unaka was in control during the second period, but a late-quarter surge from the Patriots drew them back to within a point heading into halftime.
   Amber Etter stepped up to hit two three-point goals for Sullivan East, as she scored a total of 10 points in the second quarter, making it 24-23 at the break.
   The Rangers struck first in the second half, with Coty Townsend making a steal and Renee Ensor draining a three.
   "I think we came out and played a lot better in the second half. Our defense was better than what it was in the first, and we boxed out better," said Renee Ensor.
   Sullivan East responded by going on a 9-0 run in the next three minutes, with Jessica Nixon hitting a jumper from beyond the arch.
   Unaka was held scoreless for over the next three minutes, then Danielle Ensor finally broke the drought with a shot from the free-throw line.
   The Rangers took off from that point by outscoring the Patriots 14-7 in the last four minutes of the third quarter.
   Renee Ensor was feeling it by hitting two more three-point shots, and a steal and basket toward the end of the period gave the Rangers a 45-38 advantage.
   "We were trying to get the ball inside and they did a good job of defending us, but I told them if we can't get it in then we're going to have to shoot the ball," said Chambers.
   Sullivan East hit a big shot at the buzzer, as Etter hit a three to close the lead down to four with one quarter remaining.
   Etter finished with 16 points on the night, and hit three three-pointers to lead the Patriots.
   Unaka managed to keep the lead in the final period, although Sullivan East threatened several times.
   Two free-free throws from Teresa Spread and a shot inside the paint pulled Sullivan East to within one point to start the period.
   The Patriots continually closed the gap, but Unaka seemed to be able to stay just one-step ahead at crucial moments.
   Julie Roberson hit a bucket inside with 2:15 left to give the Rangers a 51-48 advantage, but Nixon converted a couple of free throws to keep it an one possession game.
   With Unaka trying to hold onto their slim margin, Jessica Osborne nailed a three-point shot, which Sullivan East could not recover from.
   "We played well and I think it was a lot to do with our coach. That got us going," said Osborne.
   A couple of free throws down the stretch by Roberson and Renee Ensor sealed the victory for Unaka.
   Townsend led the Rangers on the boards with 12 rebounds, while Renee Ensor was top scorer with 15 points.
   "It's great being undefeated so far, and I thought we possibly could be," Chambers said. "But I didn't know if we would get by this one or the Happy Valley game, so I'm real happy right now."