Cloudland advances to region semis with 53-45 win over Greenback

Published 8:17 am Monday, February 26, 2018

GREENBACK— It’s taxing enough for any team that has to travel four hours on a school bus and realizing that it’s win and advance or lose and be done.

The Cloudland Lady Highlanders took the challenge to heart and then took it to the Greenback Lady Cherokees and the result was a big 53-45 victory that sends the Lady Highlanders to Tuesday’s region semifinals at Cocke County High School.

“They showed a lot of ice water in their veins,” said Cloudland head coach Mike Lunsford about his team’s effort. “We made some mental mistakes trying to go too fast there at the five- minute mark, and I took a chance of putting my daughter (Megan) back in there with four fouls because she hadn’t played too smart.

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“I told her ‘Honey, if you have ever tried to play smart, now would be a good time.’ She did a good job and hit all of her foul shots.”

Cloudland came out and early on it was obvious what the game plan was as the Lady Highlanders worked the ball toward the paint into the hands of Trinity Vines and Stacia Wilson as the pair totaled 12 of the 17 points scored in the opening quarter.

Vines dumped in eight in the quarter with Wilson adding four. Another big shot came at the end of the quarter as the horn sounded when Kenzie Birchfield’s trey rattled around the rim before falling through to give Cloudland a 17-7 lead at the first stop.

The Lady Cherokees finally found some offensive grove in the second period behind senior Megan Lemons who poured in 10 points in the stanza, including two from beyond the arc.

Wilson was a scoring machine in the quarter accounting for all 11 of the Lady ‘Landers points while finishing the half with 15.

Cloudland took a 28-21 advantage to the locker room after the first 16 minutes of play as the Lady ‘Landers could have made it much greater had it not been for a handful of traveling calls in the half.

The third period was a struggle offensively for both teams as the Lady Cherokees managed to edge the Lady ‘Landers 8-7 in the period as Lemons and Deedee Snoderly scored three apiece to lead Greenback.

Vines scored three while Wilson and Jasmine Birchfield netted a field goal each.

With the season on the line, the fourth quarter turned into a free-throw shooting affair and fortunately for Cloudland, the Lady ‘Landers managed to convert their trips to the line down the stretch to seal the deal.

Cloudland visited the line 19 times alone in the fourth quarter converted on 14 of their freebies while Cherokee managed to toe the line eight times in the final eight minutes of play to connect on seven attempts.

Greenback had an opportunity to seize the lead in the period trailing by only two points, but the Lady ‘Landers showed poise under pressure to withstand the onslaught.

Megan Lunsford scored all of her eight points in the stanza—all from the charity stripe. Jasmine Birchfield chipped in with four in the period.

Wilson led all scorers in the contest with 20 points. Vines finished with 12.

“Stacia played unreal inside,” stated Lunsford. “She was just tough. Trinity did a really good job of passing the ball and getting it in there. She played well I thought.

“Survive and advance—that’s what they say, right?”

Jasmine Birchfield added nine points in the win. Kenzie Birchfield finished with three points.

Lemons showed the way for the Lady Cherokees with 18 points in her final game in the orange and black. Lyndsey Woods tossed in 12 points as well for Greenback with nine of those coming in the fourth quarter.

The Highlanders now have to prepare for a senior-laden North Greene team in Tuesday’s semifinal contest and Lunsford was asked what Cloudland would need to do to win that contest.

“We have to handle the ball really well—a lot better than we did tonight,” Lunsford said. “We have to be strong with it and play really good defense against North Greene who have like five or six seniors I think.”