Pair of buzzer-beaters drops locals

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff

   The opening two matchups of Grindstaff Holiday Classic came down to the wire Friday night as the Cloudland Highlanders and Happy Valley Warriors fell victim to a pair of buzzerbeating clutch shots.
   In the early contest the Cloudland Highlanders squared off against the struggling Huskies of North Greene and held a lead for most of the game, however they could not nail the coffin shut as North Greene prevailed 52-51at White / VanHuss gym.
   The 'Landers took the early lead 9-0 until the Huskies got on track with a Dustin Collins three pointer. The lead would stay in single digits for the remainder of the first half as both teams volleyed for control throughout the first two periods.
   The second half would see some defensive lapses come back to haunt the 'Landers as North Greene began to find a stride offensively and took the lead. The third period took on a different pace as both teams traded in the halfcourt offense for a dose of transition.
   North Greene went on a 8-0 run and had the lead until Mark Byrd's three pointer to end the third period. Heading to the final frame, Cloudland lead 37-36.
   The fourth quarter saw Cloudland leap out to a 7 point lead, as the 'Landers got back to basics and utilized the size of postman Robbie Tolley. The Huskies would put in a comeback effort, and it would be just enough to take home the victory.
   Collins nailed a trey with less than a minute to go to tie the contest at 49, but on the following offensive possession, Cloudland would retake the lead.
   Byrd drew a foul in the paint and went to the line for a pair of foul shots. Byrd made one of two, and the Huskies called for time with seven seconds reaming.
   On the imbounds, the Huskies passed it to forward Tyrone Miller, Miller pushed the ball up the floor and hit a running jumper from the foul line to take home the victory.
   After the contest Cloudland Head Coach Ned Smith was displeased with the effort his team displayed, "We have to play four quarters smart," Smith said. "We have to have people step up and play better."
   Unaka 66
   Happy Valley 63

   In the second matchup of the day the Warriors took on the Unaka Rangers for the second time this season. The previous contest resulted in a Warrior win, however the rematch would be sweet revenge.
   The first half looked much like the early season matchup as the Warriors took an early lead and maintained that lead until the after half-time.
   The Warriors shot the ball extremely well from the foul line going 17-18 in the game with 11 points in the first half coming from the foul line.
   Tim Whaley paced the Warriors while Rusty Chambers and Derek Cline were warming up for Unaka.
   The second half would see a different team take the floor for Unaka, as they came out of the locker room aggressive and upbeat for the third quarter.
   Chambers found his stride stroking 12 points in the third period, meanwhile the Warriors struggled with the Unaka press.
   With point guard Cody Whitlock sidelined with an injury, coach Charlie Bayless and his troops could not get the ball up the floor with any rate of consistency in the second half. "We're not a very good ballhandling team right now," Bayless said. "They shot the ball better tonight and we let them penetrate to much.
   Down the stretch the Rangers turned it on taking a 5 point lead into the fourth quarter only to see the Warriors pull even in the fourth.
   The Warriors had to contend with foul trouble to Whaley and Jordy Harrison in the final stanza to augment the Unaka press.
   Heading into the final few minutes the stage was set for a physical battle to see who would prevail.
   After exchanging the lead back and forth during the final 2 minutes, Whaley tied the contest with 1:15 to go on the clock, enter Daniel McInturff.
   McInturff who had 19 points on the night hit a clutch three pointer with 1 tic remaining on the clock to seal the 66-63 win for the Rangers. A win that could help kickstart the season for the sleeping Rangers.
   Ranger skipper Donald Ensor has preached defense and the sermons proved their mettle Friday night, " If these kids are going to be successful we have to be defensively minded," Ensor said. "We shot the ball a little better tonight, but that all results from our improved defensive effort."