Warriors finally win close one; girls lose

By Jeff Birchfield

   It may have been the best buy in Northeast Tennessee entertainment Monday night.
   For a $4 admission fee, Happy Valley boys basketball fans were treated to a thrilling 88-86 win for the Warriors over the Sullivan North Golden Raiders.
   "The rabbit finally turned our way," said HV head coach Charlie Bayless. "That was a great ballgame. They were winded, but my boys got tired too. We're still getting over that flu and aren't in shape yet. When you play that way you have to be in shape. When you have bad legs, you can't run and you can't shoot."
   North's C.J. Hackler scored the last of his game-high 28 points on a driving lay-up with 23 seconds left to put the Raiders ahead 86-85. That was answered with five seconds remaining when Chris Rutledge drove the lane for Happy Valley and dished off to Alex Carroll.
   Carroll made the lay-up and was fouled on the play. He calmly stepped to the line and completed the three-point play for the final score.
   "That last play, the boys ran it well," said Bayless. "We put four players down low and Chris was either going to shoot the ball or kick it off. He kicked it off to Alex and that was a good play. That was three-point play when we needed one down the clutch."
   Added Rutledge, "I didn't know if that pass would get there. When it did get there, I was happy. That got the whole team pumped up. It feels great to win one for the team."
   On the other end, Carroll made an interception of a pass inside to end the contest. The Warriors were glad to have tables turned against after dropping close league games themselves against Volunteer and Elizabethton.
   "It feels great to have one go our way," said Carroll about HV's first Watauga Conference win of the year. "To score the final shot and the foul afterwards, that felt good. We knew going into this game, it was going to be hard. I didn't know if Chris would pass me the ball or not. When he did, I knew I had to go up hard."
   While Rutledge and Carroll combined on the final heroics, Tim Whaley was the Tribe's leading scorer with 22 points. Other huge games were had by John Bulla with 13 points and Andrew Bowman with 12.
   It had to be considered above all a total team effort with all 14 players who dressed out for the game, getting playing time. High scoring efforts besides those mentioned came from Carroll with 10 points, Todd Caldwell with 9 points and Rutledge with 7 points.
   North was just as determined to come away with the win. After trailing 51-44 at the half and by as many as 11 points in the third quarter, the Raiders roared back to take the lead on the first possession of the final period.
   Caldwell converted on a free throw with 46 seconds left to make the score 85-82 in favor of HV. Still, North fought back with a bucket by Aaron Hartley and then Hackler's score to retake the lead.
   Even outshining Hackler's efforts in the second half was Dammion Thomas, who scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half. C.J. Minnick added 15 total points and Hartley battled inside to post 10 for the Raiders.
   "In the first half our legs and intensity wasn't there," said North coach Ty Randolph. "It came in the second half. We're taking a bunch of guys here who are average, but I believe in them. Tonight we didn't convert, but I'm confident they will the next time they are in that position.
   "I teased them about the light not going off. I don't think the light went off for us until a certain point in the second half. I think we could have done a lot of things better, but that goes with the learning process."
   Besides keeping the scoreboard operator busy with 174 combined points, Happy Valley's run and gun offense added one more element for the players, fun.
   "It is real fun," said Carroll about the Warriors' up tempo offense this season. "We're getting to run and gun with it and letting our players shine with great shots. It was real good at the end having the guys hit shots to win the game."
   The Warriors with their first league win are now 1-2 in conference play and 2-4 overall. The Golden Raiders now sport a 1-2 league record with an overall mark of 3-5.
   Sullivan North 63, Happy Valley 51 (Girls)
   North went on a 21-1 run through the late third and fourth quarters to put the Lady Warriors away in this contest.
   Trailing only 42-40 with three seconds left in the third period, the Lady Warriors had a dubious trifecta when they failed to box out on a rebound, lost the ball on the inbounds pass and committed an unnecessary foul. That allowed the Lady Raiders to score five points in a three second span before the buzzer sounded.
   It didn't get any prettier the final period with Kortney Goulds' foul shot being the lone point the first four and a half minutes of the quarter for the Lady Warriors.
   "Right now we're just getting outplayed," said a disappointed Happy Valley head coach Ben Godsey after seeing the wheels come off. "They were making shots and we still aren't shooting the ball well. We're not shooting well from the field and I don't feel like our intensity level is where it needs to be.
   "At the first of the season, we were playing well on defense. We've went downhill from there and have gotten worse. We're just not playing hard. We have to get that corrected."
   North's coach Barry Wade was pleased with the efforts of his girls, especially considered that they were four players short due to injuries.
   "We've got one player with a hip pointer, two with sprained ankles and one with a bad knee," Wade explained. "The big thing was we scored 23 points in the second quarter. We made that run in the third quarter and we kept feeding it inside to the post. They got a little tired then."
   Amanda Frazier was the leading scorer in the game tallying 20 points for Lady Raiders. Kristen Hughes drove the baseline to add 15 and Lindsay Collins also put forth a double-digit effort with 11 points.
   "Hughes is one of our two seniors," said Wade. "She made some great moves down the baseline and played great."
   The Lady Warriors did get three scorers of their own who scored in double figures. Goulds led the way with 12 points, while Brandi Dugger and Terra Whaley each added 11.
   North improved to winning records of 2-1 in the Watauga Conference and 3-2 overall with the victory, while the Lady Warriors fell to 1-2 in the league and 3-6 overall.