Holtsclaw propels Rangers past East

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It was a battle of the home frontier between the Rangers and the Patriots on Tuesday night, with Unaka bringing out the bigger guns to down Sullivan East in a 60-46 final.
   The Rangers controlled the inside play during the entire second half as big man Rusty Holtsclaw poured in 26 points on the night to lead the way.
   "I just tried to work hard and the coach told us if we'd do that then they couldn't stop us," said Holtsclaw.
   It was a struggle for Unaka to start the game after trailing 13-10 by the end of the first period action.
   Sullivan East grabbed the first score of the contest with a put back off the rebound from David Leonard.
   It wasn't until the 3:07 mark that Unaka captured its first lead of the night, at 7-6, when Holtsclaw drew a foul down low and converted a three-point play.
   The Patriots came back firing at the end of the period to take a three-point advantage as Jimbo Jones nailed a three from the top of the key with 30 ticks left on the clock.
   Sullivan East stretch out to their biggest margin of the game by taking a 17-12 lead with a bucket down-low from Hunter Crowder midway through the second period.
   The Rangers simply didn't look in sink on the offensive end, as they were having difficulty by holding the ball instead of swinging it around for the nice open shot.
   "I'm glad to get the win, but we're not playing Unaka basketball," said Unaka coach Donald Ensor. "We're not playing with the intensity we need to, and we're not sharp at all. The things that have been the signature of the team in the past, we don't have right now."
   Unaka finally started taking advantage of its post play inside, with Holtsclaw giving them the lead with 2:08 left in the half.
   The game was tied before Tyler McCann made a steal at half court and hitting Holtsclaw on the break at the halftime buzzer.
   "We have to do a better job on boxing out -- we've got killed a couple of times this year on the boards," said Holtsclaw. "We need to definitely match up on our defense and rebound better."
   The Rangers had managed to capture a 26-24 lead at halftime, but it was not the kind of effort Unaka was hoping to achieve.
   Unaka came out in the third period converting the first two field goals, getting a bucket inside the paint from Josh Jones and a shot down low by Derek Cline.
   There was not many shots made from the perimeter by either team, which favored the Rangers with the size advantage inside.
   "They took it on the block and did a good job, but we had some shots and they just would never go," said Sullivan East coach John Dyer. "We were a little bit short on our shots and they did a good job inside."
   Another good quarter inside from Holtsclaw helped contribute to the Unaka lead growing as many as 11 points during the third.
   A three-pointer by Crowder and a couple of free throws from Jones rallied the Patriots to within six by the end of the quarter.
   With a 44-38 lead heading into the final period of play, the Rangers put the game out of reach by scoring the first 10 points.
   "We made a good run and cut it to six by the end of the third quarter, and it was a good effort, but we just ran out of gas," said Dyer. "Unaka has a good team and is one of the better ones in the area, and it's real difficult to come over here and win."
   A shot and foul inside from Rusty Chambers along with the post play of Josh Jones and Holtsclaw eventually took its toll on the Patriot defense.
   "I thought we had the advantage on the block, and it took us almost two quarters to realize that," said Ensor. "We have to see that immediately and get it there for they were never able to stop us. I'm still waiting for us to play Unaka basketball, and these guys have worked awful hard to let it slide."
   Just one field goal came from Sullivan East during the fourth, which was a lay-up off the steal by Dusty Craig.
   Crowder and Craig led the Patriots in scoring with 13 points each, while Chambers added 12 for Unaka and Jones finished with 10.
   In JV action it was Sullivan East defeating Unaka by a final of 68-58.
   Brent Harper and Miles Phillips led the way for the Patriots with 14 points apiece, while Brandon Roper finished with a game-high 18 points for the Rangers.