Bulldog boys best Cloudland, Lady 'Landers emerge on top

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The main event lived up to its billing, and the Bulldog predecessor wouldn't have been more pleased with the contest.
   After former Hampton Bulldog head coach Jerry White was honored by his former players and associates, his former teams, the Bulldogs and the Highlanders, put on a thrilling 51-45 contest in Hampton's favor at VanHuss-White Gym Tuesday night.
   It was a tight contest with Hampton prevailing after a half, but a roaring Highlander offense took a dominating lead, only to watch Josh Moss and gang blow it away.
   "They outplayed us three quarters," said Hampton head coach Bud Hazelwood. "We did nothing but stand around, I didn't know if we could press with (Mark) Byrd in the lineup or not."
   Mark Byrd came back three weeks early for the Highlanders with his injured hand and his help showed, guiding Cloudland's offense and defense to a strong showing.
   "I thought our offense was more poised," said Cloudland coach Ned Smith. "He's been injured and not had a lot of practice. He was a little rusty, but he gave us a boost. If we can get more practice under our belt, we'll be all right."
   Said Hazelwood: "Cloudland started playing their tempo, and we got them sped up a bit. That was the key to the game really. Mitchell Morton got aggressive for us and Greg Osborne hit a couple.
   "We got two or three stops, and it's a simple game sometimes if you can take care of the ball and make your free throws. I'm not sure how much we deserved it with one quarter, but with our inexperience, I'll take any kind of win I can get in any way."
   "The kids played hard out there," Smith said. "We was up eight points. As a team we've got to learn to finish what we start out there.
   "Buddy does a good job with Hampton. They got those four big threes out there. It was a good atmosphere tonight; we've just got to keep playing hard."
   The key to the win laid in the hands of Josh Moss, who hit three big baskets in the fourth quarter, and made six straight free throws to swing the game for Hampton.
   "We stepped it up in the fourth quarter," said Moss. "My shots just fell for me and I got confident. Our season's really starting to pick up."
   Cloudland opened the game behind Cole Gouge and Robbie Tolley, taking a slight lead. However, Adam Miller and Adam McCall joined Moss' efforts in the first quarter to swing the lead towards the 'Dogs despite a big three-pointer from Byrd.
   Craig Cooke and Josh Johnson helped expose Tolley for a couple of points as the Highlanders closed into the Hampton lead. Greg Osborne and Jacob Culler helped Hampton keep the momentum with some key buckets going into the locker room.
   Cloudland flat out dominated in the third quarter, building a strong lead after a pair of Josh Johnson treys. Outscoring Hampton by 10 in the period, it took its longest lead of the game.
   After key shots from Miller, Morton, Moss and Osborne, Hampton had it under control late. Despite a strong effort from Aaron Stocton, the game simply slipped through Cloudland's fingers.
   Moss led all scoring with 19 points for Hampton. Robbie Tolley led Cloudland with 13 and 11 boards, while teammate Josh Johnson had 10 points. Byrd led both teams with 10 assists and six steals in the contest.
   Cloudland hosts a tough Johnson County team this Friday in Roan Mountain.
   Cloudland (Girls) 79
   Hampton 65
   The Hampton Lady Bulldogs came out on fire.
   Hampton shocked the Lady Highlanders with a one-point lead after the first half, but came back out to find that its fire had been extinguished.
   After eight first-half turnovers, Cloudland roared with a 12-point run to begin the second half and ended up with a 79-65 victory in VanHuss-White Gymnasium.
   "We played real well in the second half," said Lady Highlander skipper Matt Birchfield. "In the second quarter, we was a little relaxed. Hampton came out and shot the ball well tonight. They killed us outside from the free point line, and we had to stretch a little bit.
   "We were down by one. The girls didn't panic. They stepped up in the second half, and got us a real comfortable lead. I'm really happy about that."
   Hampton opened the game with a big clutch performance from freshman Lauren Pittman, Joy Gardner and Heather Chambers. But Cloudland had some big buckets from Nikki Webb and Amy Storie to take a 15-13 lead after the first quarter.
   Chambers and Jessica Tolley played strong defense, and set up a strong scoring run over Cloudland's Tara Hanson to take a lead after the first half.
   Tenacious defense was the key for the Lady Bulldogs. However, the strong defense was simply on the opposite end of the spectrum in the next 16 minutes.
   Cloudland built a strong lead behind Holly Blair, Stachia Johnson and Jessica McGuire to open the second half. Freshman Jessica Lunsford pulled away with 13 points in the fourth quarter after Cloudland took a 24-point lead.
   Hampton wouldn't allow a lead of that margin, rallying back behind Kristi Clark and Chambers to cut Cloudland off at the end. It was simply the Lady 'Landers' night as Cloudland came away with the victory.
   Chambers led all scoring with 21 for Hampton, while teammates Joy Gardner and Jessica Tolley smacked in double digits with 17 and ten respectively.
   Tara Hanson had 18 for Cloudland, while Lunsford totaled 17.
   "For her to come off the bench in the second half and score the way she did as a freshman, it was big for us," said Birchfield of Lunsford, "We were not shooting well, and she came in and made a lot of baskets.
   "Tara made some shots for us and McGuire came in and did well. Those things are just going to make us better down the road with some depth."
   Stachia Johnson and Amy Storie contributed 14 and 10, respectively for the Lady Highlanders.