Lady Bulldogs take D1A championship, ‘Landers rally past Unaka for third place

Published 4:43 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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BLOUNTVILLE – On Monday, the District 1A girls’ basketball playoffs were finalized with Cloudland and Hampton each earning victories. The Lady Highlanders took a 48-46 win over the Unaka Lady Rangers to take third place and they will travel to Cosby, who finished second in region 2-1A, while the Rangers will face number one Washburn.
Hampton took the championship over North Greene 55-42 in a physical game that bloodied the chin of Lady Huskies senior guard Sonya Wagner who took a hard fall in the third period driving to the hoop.
“I thought our defense set the tone early,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Brandon Carpenter said. “We got after a lot of loose balls. We missed some shots, missed some layups and some free throws, but at this stage, you just want to somehow come out with a win.”
The Huskies (17-16) took a 16-15 first-period lead with senior guard Grace Buchanan connecting on a pair of threes, but a determined Bulldogs (26-2) effort in the second period saw Hampton outscore North Greene 18-8 in the stanza to take a 33-24 halftime advantage.
“Piper (Helle) sets the tone for us defensively,” Carpenter said. “As the game goes on, she gets better and better. Also, Ryleigh Nickels is a good shooter and she hit a couple of big threes for us as we built a lead.”
Wagner had a rough game for the Huskies as she missed on all seven shots she took in the second period and things got worse in the third quarter when she attempted to drive the baseline and took a hard hit under the basket and went sprawling to the floor.
She had to be tended to by trainers who helped her off the court with a bandage applied to her chin which was bleeding, but she would return in the fourth quarter.
Buchanan led the Huskies with 13 points, with Haley Bailey adding nine. For Hampton, junior post Taylor Berry had a game-high 15 points with senior Linsey Jenkins chipping in with 11.
Jenkins was named the tournament’s MVP and she said afterward, “Coach told us to keep pushing and someone’s going to get tired, but it shouldn’t be us.”
For senior Madison McClain, she was extremely proud of her team’s efforts this season and rising from where the team was a few short seasons ago, saying, “I am so proud of this team. I never, ever thought that we would get this far, but we owe it all to coach Carpenter. He believed in us and pushed us very hard.”
Third place game
Cloudland 48
Unaka 46
Playing with two missing starters – Saharra McKinney and Isabella Christman – the Lady ‘Landers dug deep and came away with the victory. Senior post Ella Benfield had a team-high 25 points and seven rebounds and the ‘Landers benefited from a missed free throw from Unaka senior guard Lyndie Ramsey to hold on for the win.
“We are down two really good players, but we got good minutes from some young players,” Lady ‘Landers head coach Matt Birchfield said. “Ella Benfield had decided to take a lot of responsibility for this team’s success and she has showed up like a senior should.”
Unaka (10-20) led 11-9 after one quarter and 24-23 at the half, but Cloudland (16-9) rallied in the third period to take a 35-34 advantage into the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter was nip and tuck the entire way with Cloudland taking a 45-41 lead on a deuce from Benfield at the 2:45 mark.
Ramsey then hit a deuce and a pair of free throws to tie the game at 45-45, but Katie Baldwin hit one-of-two from the line with :25.7 ticks left in regulation and Ryan Turbyfill also hit one-of-two from the line for a two-point Cloudland lead at 47-45.
With 6.6 seconds left, Ramsey missed the front end of a one-and-one but made the second as Unaka remained one point down. Turbyfill was fouled and made one free throw with 3.6 seconds left, but Ramsey’s three-point heave from half-court was not made and the buzzer sounded. Ramsey finished with 33 points and was named to the All-Tournament team and was named Watauga Valley Conference Player of the Year in post-game honors.
D1A Third place game
Cloudland 48-46
Unaka (46)
Ramsey 33, H. Taylor 9, Dugger 2, Hague 2
Cloudland (48)
Birchfield 3, Benfield 25, Turbyfill 10, R. Blair 2, Street 4, Baldwin 1, McCoury 3.
Unaka 11 13 10 12 – 46
Cloudland 9 14 12 13 – 48
3-point goals: U 5 (Ramsey 3, H. Taylor 2), C 2 (Birchfield 1, McCoury 1)
D1A Championship
Hampton 55-42
North Greene (42)
M. Buchanan 1, Gaby 8, G. Buchanan 13, Wagner 7, Bailey 9, Miller 4
Hampton (55)
Helle 7, McClain 6, Henry 8, Jenkins 11, Berry 15, Nickles 8
North Greene 16 8 11 7 – 42
Hampton 15 18 13 9 – 55
3-point goals: NG 2 (G. Buchanan 2), H 6 (Jenkins 2, Berry 2, Nickels 2)
All Conference
Madison McClain, Linsey Jenkins, Macy Henry, Taylor Berry
Ella Benfield, Saharra McKinney, Isabella Christman, Ryan Turbyfill
North Greene
Sonya Wagner, Zoe Sanders, Grace Buchanan
Lyndie Ramsey (Player of the Year)

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