Unaka girls, Harriman boys turn in triumphant efforts

By Travis Brown
STAR Correspondent

   The Unaka Rangers hosted the Harriman Blue Devils Monday night for the chance to make a statement at home against two talented teams.
   Unfortunately, only the girls could escape with a victory despite an overtime effort from the boys team that was nothing short of remarkable.
   The night started off with a strong first-quarter performance from the Lady Rangers. Taking a 22-14 lead off of the strong interior play, Unaka looked to be well en route to a solid victory.
   The second period saw both teams fall into a lull as neither club could maintain the momentum of the first period. A couple of missed transition opportunities hurt the Lady Rangers halfway through the second period; however, they still took a 31-21 lead into halftime.
   The third period would see a renewed Ranger offense that continued to pile up the points off of defense and turnovers.
   Unaka's Renee Ensor stepped up and delivered nine third-quarter points along with some stellar defense to extend the Unaka lead to 18 points going into the fourth quarter.
   Harriman would respond in the final stanza but the run simply came too late, as it outscored the Lady Rangers 17-10 in the quarter. The late rally pulled the final score within respectability, 58-47, with the Rangers taking the honors.
   Unaka head coach Ken Chambers hopes the victory will foster further improvements on his young team.
   "Overall I was pleased with our play -- we played hard." Chambers said. "We have experience but we don't have a senior on the team. We have to keep preparing for the tournaments."
   The late game would feature a pair of high-powered teams in search of defining victory. Regulation would not be enough to decide this dogfight as the Blue Devils took home the victory, 81-79.
   The first quarter started out in favor of the Blue Devils as a swarming interior defense and quick dribble penetration helped Harriman out to a 13-8 first quarter lead.
   After having trouble in the first period, the Rangers fixed all of the kinks in the second period, outscoring the Blue Devils 27-15 in the quarter.
   With 4:41 to play in the second, the Rangers ripped off eight unanswered points to tie the score at 18 all midway through the period. In a matter of moments the Rangers had built a 10-point lead off of turnovers and transition baskets.
   Harriman skipper Jeff King elected not to call time-out as his team continued to slip behind a surging Ranger press. A big three-point basket by Billy Ledbetter stopped the bleeding as time expired, leaving the Rangers in command 35-28 at the break.
   The second half marked a strong showing for both teams in what could be the finest half of basketball to be played in Carter County this season.
   Harriman's Adam Kreis, who had been silent throughout the first half, erupted in the third quarter for 14 points to spur a Harriman rally to pull within one during the quarter.
   Blue Devil skipper Jeff King commented on his strong shooter.
   "Adam is a streaky player for us," King said. "But when he is on, he is the best around."
   Harriman ran off 10 unanswered points during the third, heading to the fourth frame, the Blue Devils trailed by one with momentum building.
   The fourth quarter was a see-saw battle which got underway midway through the period with a big three by Tyler Miller. The basket tied the game up for the Blue Devils as they would soon take the lead.
   Unaka tied the contest on a pressure-packed three pointer by Cody Collins. The shot marked Collins' first points of the game, and hopefully represents more of what's to come for the Senior guard.
   Despite the valiant charge the Blue Devils were too strong down the stretch as a last-ditch effort to tie by Rusty Chambers fell short. The Rangers found out exactly what it will take to get the next level as the Devils took home an 81-79 victory.
   Unaka head coach Donald Ensor hopes this game will mark a turnaround for the Rangers.
   "We made mental mistakes at crucial times," Ensor said. "They have come to our homecourt and beat us in overtime, We have to see if we are tough enough to do the same to them at their place."