Little Milligan gets caught in Jr. Highlander snare

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Jr. High Lady Highlanders battled their way to victory on Tuesday, as they knocked off Little Milligan in a 32-21 final.
   Cloudland dominated the boards on the inside, and the full-court press in the second half took its toll in wearing down the Buffaloes.
   "We were a little bigger than they were so it helped us, and when we pressed them we had more people to throw at them, which eventually wore them down," said Cloudland coach Randy Birchfield.
   Little Milligan grabbed a 4-0 lead to start the contest, when Andrea Tinsman scoring and two free throws coming from Megan Holtsclaw.
   The Highlanders stormed back by going on a 10-2 run in the final minutes, as Cloudland hit the boards and ran the fast break.
   Cloudland tied the contest, after Santana Clawson hit a jumper from outside, and Jessica Mathis converted the lay-up on the transition.
   A couple of offensive rebounds by Duranda Byrd resulted in two scores, as she connected right before the period was over to give Cloudland a 10-6 lead.
   "Everybody contributed to the game, and when we have 10 people that can make an impact, then we're going to do some good things," said Birchfield.
   Little Milligan came back in the second quarter to tie the game, when Holtsclaw hit a shot inside the three-point line, and Maggie White knocked down a 12-foot jumper.
   The Buffaloes defense was doing the job, as they held Cloudland to two points during the period, which came from Dora Shaddux on a jumper from eight-feet out.
   "Our defensive strategy was to pack it inside to keep it from the big girls, and we were doing a pretty good job at that, but the difference was that they were making their outside shots and we didn't," said Little Milligan coach David Cable.
   The Highlanders enjoyed a slim 12-10 lead at halftime, but when they came out in the second half they decided to turn up the intensity.
   Cloudland outscored Little Milligan 10-1 in the first three minutes of the third period.
   It started with a bucket by Tess Hanson from 12 feet out, and a couple of shots down low by Whitney Hill and Shaddux gave the 'Landers a boost of momentum.
   The Buffaloes got off to a slow start, as they captured just one free throw by Tinsman in the first four minutes.
   But a late quarter rally by Little Milligan helped them climb their way back into the contest trailing 22-15 at the end of the third period.
   The Buffaloes cut the lead to five to start the fourth period, when Carolyn Mauch drew a foul off of a defensive rebound and sank two free-throws.
   Little Milligan had gained back some of the momentum that Cloudland had captured the quarter prior, but a couple of big rebounds inside from Stasha Saults gave control back to Cloudland.
   Saults was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, which gave the 'Landers a 28-18 lead with 3:25 left in the contest.
   The Buffaloes were unable to make charge in the closing minutes, as the Cloudland defense was denying Little Milligan from setting up the half-court offense and finding the open shot.
   "We didn't box out well or we could have got over the back called, but they just had had a lot more size and got a 2-1 edge on shots," said Cable.
   Cloudland's Jr. High boys cruised to a 54-19 final over Little Milligan, which was a result of the 'Landers having too much size and athleticism to be contained.
   "Our kids are a lot bigger and stronger and have worked at basketball a lot longer than their kids have, but they played hard and deserve credit," said Cloudland coach Mike Lunsford.
   The Buffaloes needed to be Big Milligan instead of Little, for they didn't have an answer for controlling the boards against the much larger 'Landers.
   Cloudland streaked out to a 16-2 lead in the first quarter of play, with Cody Hughes leading the way with six points.
   "Our kids handled the situation well, for they went out and passed it around with not many turnovers, and I didn't know whether they would have an opportunity to play as well as they are right now," said Lunsford.
   Jonathan Tolley nailed a three-point shot, and Michael Lunsford was 3-of-4 from the free-throw line with both adding five points apiece in the first period.
   A field goal from Dan Campbell was all the offense that Little Milligan could acquire in the first quarter, as they had trouble in handling the big guard play of Cloudland.
   "Their movement is good and their effort is more than I can ask for, but they're just not quite big enough and they all give 110 percent no matter what," said Little Milligan coach Charles Mills.
   The 'Landers continued to stretch their lead in the second period, as Lunsford added six points and ended with a game-high 15.
   Cloudland enjoyed a 28-8 lead at the half and had no signs of slowing down to start the third quarter.
   Rebounds from Rodney Hill added to the 'Lander contribution, and a putback inside with three seconds left from Alex Gouge made it a 41-14 Cloudland lead after three.
   Cloudland continued their dominance in the final quarter, as it controlled the inside and the transitional play.
   Campbell finished with nine points to lead the way for the Buffaloes, while Travis Gregg added five.
   "We've got a young team and not many eighth-graders, but we're coming up in the next couple of years and we'll be back," said Mills.