Jr. Lady Rangers capture tournament championship over Central

Published 11:54 pm Sunday, January 23, 2022

BY BRANDON HYDE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
The Girls Small School Tournament championship game was more akin to a WWE wrestling match than a girls basketball game.  The fight was on as the first period saw the two defenses go toe-to-toe which resulted in a low-scoring first period.
Neither team could seemingly dribble more than five feet without a player being surrounded and eventually wrapped up in a tussle leading to a jump ball.  This went on throughout the entire game.
Central struck first with Maliyah Green going 1-for-2 on a free throw, putting the Lady Comets on the board after a minute into play.  Jayda McClain countered this with a strike from almost half-court to Autumn Harrison under the basket for the Unaka score.
It was nearly all defense in the first period, but Bryanna Nickles hit a jumper from the foul line, bringing Central to within one point, making the score 4-3 in the first period.
The eventual MVP, Emma Douglas, started to come alive in the second period with a shot after a rebound putting Unaka up 6-3 with 4:15 to go in the half.
This would be followed by a sneaky steal from McClain, but having the basket dead to rights would have the ball slip from her hands.
Just prior to the half, Central’s Maliya Rollins sunk a basket after a steal by Nickles making the score 6-5 at halftime.
The name of the game for both teams was defense, defense, defense.  It was a back-and-forth struggle all throughout the first half.  Unaka saw better penetration inside but was off-target in their shooting.  Central was more on target but struggled to find themselves in position for a good shot.  This resulted in the low-scoring first half.
Central’s Rollins would start out the third period with a score underneath, but this was countered by immediate back-to-back-to-back scores by Unaka putting them up 12-7 to start the second half.
There was more offense in the opening minutes of the third period than almost the entire first half.  This was the beginning of a 12-4 run by Unaka as their shooting struggles would subside.
It would be a devastating blow for the Lady Comets who would never recover going into the fourth period with the third period closing out
with Unaka up 18-9.
The final period was much like the first with the Lady Comets taking a one-point advantage, but the blows Unaka delivered in the third period were just too much for the Lady Comets to overcome.
Unaka would go on to take the victory and small school championship with a final score of 23-15.
Autumn Harrison would lead all scoring with eight points on the night, but the overall offensive and defensive play from Emma Douglas would earn her the MVP.
Central’s Maliya Rollins would have a strong night for the Lady Comets with six along with Maliyah Green’s five.
Unaka, 23-15
Unaka (23)
Emma Douglas 6, Olivia Shepard 5, Autumn Harrison 8, Rebekah Lloyd 2
Central (15)
Maliyah Green 5, Bryann Nicles 4, Maliya Rollins 6

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