Cloudland holds off Lady Rangers

Published 12:13 am Saturday, February 20, 2016


GRAY – The District 1-A girls basketball tournament got underway on Friday evening at Bobby Snyder gym with number five Unaka facing off against fourth seeded Cloudland. Points were at a premium in this one as defense dominated throughout the contest and in the end Cloudland pulled out a thrilling 34-31 victory and a trip to the regional.

“At first our nerves got the best of us,” commented senior guard Peyton Johnson who led the Lady Highlanders with 12 points. “Once we got past that, we started playing good team basketball and rebounding. It’s an awesome feeling going to the regional four straight years and as long as we play together as a team we should have a good shot.”

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In the early going, Unaka’s defensive pressure forced seven turnovers from the Lady Highlanders as the Lady Rangers took a 14-3 first quarter lead behind nine points from senior guard Hannah Tipton. Shian Strickland converted a four point play for Cloudland just before the end of the first period to cut the deficit to 14-7.

Cloudland (6-5 conference) cut the Rangers lead to 18-14 by the half with Strickland contributing seven points to the ‘Lander effort while Tipton led all scorers at the half with 11. Tipton hit a three-ball and followed that with a deuce as Unaka took a 26-23 lead with 57 seconds left in the third period.

Unaka (4-7 conference) took a 26-25 lead into the final stanza after a bucket from Johnson closed the third quarter. Lisa Ellis followed that with a trey for a 28-26 Cloudland lead to open the fourth quarter. Johnson hit a pair of two point buckets in the paint as the ‘Landers took a 32-26 lead with 1:39 remaining in regulation.

“That’s what you expect from your senior leader,” said Lady ‘Landers head coach Lucas Andrews. “I wasn’t here for all four of her years, but the last two I have coached her and she does what is expected of her. This is what you play for and coach for and you just have to have fun with it. In the end we dug deep and found a way to win. I have a lot of freshmen on this team that haven’t been allowed to be freshmen. I have a great group of girls here and they all stepped up.”

A free throw from Lexi Garland and a pair of free throws from Katlyn Weaver saw Unaka cut the Cloudland lead to 32-29 with 50.5 ticks left on the clock. Hannah Tipton drove the lane and scored a deuce on a layup to make it a one point game at 32-31 with 29.3 seconds to go.

Strickland finished off the scoring from the free throw line hitting both ends of her one-and-one to secure the win.

“This is the kind of tough game I thought it would be,” Lady Rangers head coach Kenneth Chambers said. “Our seniors played hard – Hannah gave it everything she had – and I thought we played hard as a team. We are inexperienced but have to start to understand that it’s never over until it’s over and never give up.”

Tipton led all scorers with 18 points for Unaka. Cloudland will take on South Greene at 4 pm today.

District 1-A tournament

Game One

Cloudland 34-31

Unaka (31)

H.Tipton 18, Garland 3, Sav. Tipton 3, Burrow 5, Weaver 2.

Cloudland (34)

Strickland 9, Johnson 12, Julian 3, Ellis 6, Singleton 4.

Unaka 14 4 8 5 – 31

Cloudland 7 7 11 9 – 34

3-point goals : U 4-15 (S. Tipton 0-2, H. Tipton 2-5, Sav. Tipton 1-2, Burrow 1-4, Weaver 0-2), C 4-14 (Wilson 0-1, Strickland 1-4, Johnson 0-1, Julian 1-2, Ellis 2-5, Singleton 0-1).