Unaka shocks Bulldogs to take third place

Published 7:19 am Thursday, February 21, 2019

KINGSPORT – On Tuesday evening at J. Richard Carroll gymnasium in the District 1A tournament, the Unaka Rangers stunned Hampton 55-52 to take third place.
Junior forward Ryan Johnson got the Rangers off to a hot start by hitting three 3-ball’s as Unaka (13-16) held a 17-16 lead after one quarter was in the books.
The Rangers shot 18-for-31 from the floor (58 percent) including 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
“Unaka hit some big shots,” Bulldogs head coach Ned Smith said. “They shot the ball well and hit some big free throws down the stretch. The kids played hard but we had a bad second quarter, and I thought that second quarter was a big difference.”
In that second period, the Rangers held Hampton to just four points and took a 26-20 halftime lead. The Bulldogs outscored Unaka in the last two periods but only by three points as the Rangers had some inconsistency from the free throw line hitting 9-of-17 (52.9 percent) that prevented them from pulling away sooner.
“It’s a big win,” Rangers head coach Aaron Dugger said. “Not just the magnitude of what it means, but early in the season everybody had us picked last and these kids, I can’t say enough about them. We lost one-possession games by three points, four points, that to come here and get two wins by three points shows that they trust what’s going on, what we’re telling them. I’m proud of them, and they deserve everything they get.”
The third period was nearly a dead heat with Hampton shaving two points off the Rangers lead, and the ‘Dogs went into the fourth quarter trailing 40-36. Hampton then went to a defensive tactic of pressing each inbound play and forced several turnovers, but Unaka began going over the top on inbound plays and began to draw fouls from the aggressive Bulldogs.
Guard Will Sexton opened the fourth quarter with a trey for Unaka and with the Rangers leading 45-39, Johnson connected on another long-range shot to open a nine-point Unaka lead with 5:38 remaining.
Hampton post Jordan Bentley completed a three-point play, but Sexton answered with a deuce in the paint. Bentley got the next two buckets for Hampton to close to within 50-46 with and after a deuce from Isaak Hill the ‘Dogs closed to 51-48.
Unaka’s Isaac Hill then hit two free throws to make it a four-point game, but Bentley was good for two free throws and Hill hit another deuce to make it a 53-52 contest. Austin Drew and Hill were each good for a free throw for the Rangers to make it a 55-52 game and the ‘Dogs inbounded under their basket with 12 seconds left.
The ‘Dogs looked to find Bentley for a trey, but his shot came up short, and the Rangers celebrated their biggest win of the season. Sexton had a game-high 16 points with Rocky Croy pacing Hampton with 14.
District 1A Tournament
J. Richard Carroll gymnasium
Boys consolation game
Unaka 55-52
Unaka (55)
Johnson 12, Hill 8, Sexton 16, Drew 2, Ramsey 10, Whitehead 4, Ensor 3.
Hampton (52)
Hill 11, Vines 7, Oaks 2, Croy 14, Bentley 9, C. Jones 3, J. Jones 2, Hughes 4

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