Ron Snavely coached Unaka’s first ranked team in 1984

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2020

      In only his first few years of coaching Ronnie Snavely, who
Unaka’s Gym is named after, not only had his Rangers ranked in the TSSAA
top ten for the first time ever, but also led them to their first state
tournament appearance.
     At one time in the season, both Unaka’s boys and girls were state-ranked.
While Snavely led the boys to number five, Coach Junior Taylor Unaka girls
were ranked eighth.
     Unaka was a charter member of the Watauga Conference and played in
the league for years until the Class A Appalachian Conference was organized.
     In 1984, Unaka joined the Smokey Mountain Conference as the Appalachian
Conference was dissolved.
    John Hyatt’s 1968-69 Unaka club recorded a 27-4 overall record
but finished second in the conference to Hampton.
     Unaka’s conference record was 9-2, while the Bulldogs went 11-0.  The
following season the Rangers once again came in second behind Hampton
with a 9-3 record while Coach Jerry Nave’s ‘Dogs went 11-1.
     Eddie Holly led the conference in scoring with a 16.9 average while Alan
Bradley was second with a 16.5 average.
     Hyatt’s last year, the 1970-71 season, Unaka finished third in the
conference with an 8-4 record and a 21-11 overall record.
     Boones Creek won the conference that year and Hampton was second.
Hyatt’s 1969 team was eliminated in the first round of the districts but in ’71
reached the finals by defeating University School and Happy Valley.
     They lost to Science Hill 62-61 in the championship game.  The Rangers
came back and beat Elizabethton for third place and gave them a birth in the
     Only three teams went back then so the consolation game was very
important. They lost to Kingsport 67-62 in the first round of the
     Ted Maxwell’s 1965-66 team enjoyed a good year finishing 20-10
overall while going 5-5 in conference play.
     They defeated Lamar and Jonesboro in the district tournament, making it
to the Regional only to lose to Sullivan.
     John Hardin coached three years at Unaka from 1958-1960 and
recorded a 49-34 record.
     Snavely’s 1984 Rangers was the winningest team since the 1970-71 season
shooting for high marks as the season’s tournament approached.
     Two big wins for Snavely was a win over Happy Valley 40-38 and an overtime
win at University School 58-57.
     Ronnie Hicks who was a former coach of Unaka girls was now coaching
at Cloudland and landed one of his biggest wins in the district
     The Lady Rangers were ranked number one in the conference going into the
tournament but Hick’s Highlanders pulled off a 42-41 upset.
     Tammy Bare led the Lady ‘Landers with 18-points,  Unaka would still make the
     Unaka boys would win the district with a one-point win over Gatlinburg Pittman,
51-50, and go to the Regional as a number one seed.
     Jeff Lewis was the hero that night as he made a basket to give Unaka
a 47-44 lead in the final minutes.
     Pittman pulled within one. Lewis then sank two free throws for a 49-46 lead.
With nine seconds left in the game, Pittman scored again to pull back within one.
     Lewis was immediately fouled, going to the line once again sinking both shots with
the game on the line.
     Lewis led the Rangers with 22 points and was selected Most Valuable Player.
     Gary Colbaugh who scored ten points for Unaka was selected on the All-Tournament
team along with Dwayne Taylor and Donald Ensor.
     Unaka’s girl’s fourth-place finish put them against number one
ranked Wynn in the opener of the region while the boys were matched up against
Knox Catholic.
     Marsha Taylor and Stephanie Hardin hit eight free throws in the final minutes to
lead Unaka over the top-ranked District ll Wynn team and advanced in the Regionals.
     Unaka boys were led by Ensor taking a tough win over the Catholic team.
     The win for the Lady Rangers set up a semi-final match-up with Cloudland.
     While the Ranger boys would lose to University ending a shot at the state, the
Unaka girls easily handled Cloudland with a 59-42 win. 
     Taylor once again led Unaka with 22 points and on to the finals of the
      In the finals, Taylor and company easily beat Wartburg to host a sub-state game
and keep their eye on the state tournament.
     Taylor scored 24 points and Hardin finished with 15. Junior Taylor’s Lady Rangers
would win and go on to the State Tournament.
     Snavely’s 1984-85 team would come back the next year stronger and would beat
Knox Webb for the Regional crown with a 34-33 win.
      A sub-state win would send the Unaka boys to their first state tournament.
      Snavely coached the boy’s basketball program for 12 years, making its first two state
tournament berths in 1985 and ’88.
      His teams won three Smoky Mountain Conference titles going 14-0 in 1989.
      His teams won four District 1-A finals and advanced to the Regional nine times winning
two championships.
      Snavely won 180 games while at Unaka, which is second in all-time History.  He won
several Coach of the Year awards and was elected into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame.

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