Eagles deny Rangers

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It was a tough battle which resulted in a loss for the Unaka Rangers on Tuesday night, as they fell short in a 75-69 final against the undefeated Cosby Eagles.
   The Rangers had trouble with execution and making the right decisions in the final minutes, after they made a rally in the fourth quarter.
   "Everything that has happened to us so far has been mental, and it's got to end. The guys have got to start taking responsibility," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor.
   Cosby streaked out to a 7-2 lead. Kent Black nailed a three-pointer, and he connected on seven of them before the night was through, finishing with 23 points.
   Unaka came back to tie the contest as Rusty Chambers converted the basket off a rebound plus drawing the foul for the three-point play.
   Chambers finished with 24 points, with nine of them coming in the first period.
   The Rangers grabbed their first lead when Cody Collins hit back to back threes, giving the Rangers a four-point advantage at the end of the first quarter.
   Unaka built a 35-26 lead with 3:33 left in the second period after Collins executed the lay-up off of a fast-break opportunity.
   "We had our opportunity to win, but unforced errors and turnovers, along with bad decisions on offense at crucial points in the game, killed us," said Ensor.
   Two three-point goals from Black, along with another one from Dusty Williams, pulled the Eagles back to within one point at the half.
   "I'm not sure if we would have won the game if we hadn't shot the ball as well as we did from the outside," said Cosby coach Brad Flatford.
   The Rangers came out to grab a quick score in the third quarter as Derek Cline made a steal and took it to the goal for the deuce.
   Cosby came back strong in the next few minutes, going on an 11-0 run.
   "We were able to knock down some shots and I think that gave us confidence to get the win," said Flatford.
   Two more three-point goals by Black and one from Kevin Hall gave the Eagles the momentum and an eight-point lead.
   The Rangers trailed 64-55 heading into the final period, but Unaka came out in the first two minutes to cut the lead to three.
   A couple of buckets on the inside from Josh Jones shrank the Eagles advantage to 63-60 with five and a half minutes left.
   Unaka struggled from then on with its shot selection and patience.
   Several forced shots and lapses on defense put the Rangers down by eight with four minutes left.
   "We have to get better on defense in defending the perimeter, and the one guy just killed us from the outside," said Chambers.
   A steal from Cline and foul by Cosby gave him the opportunity to close the lead down to six, but in the final two minutes the Eagles did an excellent job of running down the clock forcing the foul.
   "Our shots weren't falling and we started lagging on defense, but we have got to keep playing hard and get back into playing good ball," said Cline.
   Unaka was unable to come back at the end, but still gave a good effort against one of the most respected programs in the Class A.
   Lady Rangers 85
   Lady Eagles 51
   The Cosby Lady Eagles became extinct in the second half, as the Lady Rangers shot them down with a 37-point swing to post an 85-51 win.
   It was a near perfect third and fourth quarter of play from Unaka that gave them the victory after trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half.
   "We didn't know what to expect from them coming in, but when we started making our lay-ups and foul shots, things came together for us," said Lady Ranger coach Kenneth Chambers.
   The Rangers fell behind 11-4 in the first period, after grabbing the first four scores and then giving up 11 straight points.
   Two three-point goals from Tina Barnes forced Unaka to call a time-out with 1:44 left in the quarter, but the Rangers battled back to make 14-10 by the end of the period.
   Unaka struggled in the first half of the second period, falling behind 28-16 after having trouble with containing Sheena Coggins.
   Coggins led the Eagles with 21 points on the night, along with a couple of threes from the outside.
   The Rangers got their break in the final few minutes of the half by pounding it into Julie Roberson, who got the Eagles defense in foul trouble on the inside.
   "We made our foul shots tonight, and they started getting in foul trouble and weren't getting up the floor as well as we were, so then we started pounding it inside," said Chambers.
   Roberson exploded to a 15-point second quarter performance. Eleven of them came from the free-throw line with only one miss.
   The Rangers closed the deficit to 36-33 by the end of the half, and they appeared to be settling down from their shaky start.
   Cosby scored the first basket of the second-half from a shot inside the paint from Whitney Hannah, but the Rangers came back with a flurry by scoring the next 17 points.
   Coty Townsend penetrated with the ball to collapse the Eagle defense, which left the Rangers wide-open on the outside.
   A couple of threes from Renee Ensor along with Kelley Taylor from the perimeter gave the Rangers the momentum heading into the final quarter.
   "I felt confident and ready to play tonight, and I'm proud of my team. I felt we played really well," said Taylor.
   Taylor finished with 17 points on the evening, while Ensor knocked down three 3-point goals.
   It was a 54-45 advantage Unaka enjoyed starting the fourth period, and a three from Coty Townsend followed by a steal and lay-up gave the Rangers a lead of 17.
   "I thought we stepped up instead of having a let down after coming off a loss, and we did a good job of driving in and dishing off," said Townsend.
   The Rangers continued to dominate by controlling the boards, playing aggressive defense, and finding the open man to hammer Cosby and outscore them 52-15 in the second half.