Highlanders stage late-game comeback in District 1-1A boys consolation

Published 4:42 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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One of the most competitive games of the District 1-1A boys’ tournament didn’t come in the championship game but in the consolation contest to determine third place between Unaka and Cloudland, and it was a dandy.

After trailing for almost three quarters, the boys from Roan Mountain rallied to force overtime against the Rangers, where both teams battled for four minutes of extended play before Cloudland pulled away for a 66-63 overtime victory.

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The game was close throughout as the Rangers battled their way to a 31-30 halftime advantage behind eight points from Aiden Walsh. Austin Lambert and John Hardin had a big hand in pushing Unaka to the front as they added six points apiece. Nick Carraway was doing all he could to keep his Highlander team in contention by draining the basket for 14 first-half points.

It appeared that Unaka was going to pull away from the Highlanders in the third period as the Rangers outscored Cloudland 11-6 to push their lead to 42-36 by the end of the quarter. However, that wasn’t going to be the case as the Highlanders started to get treys to drop and turned the once six-point deficit into a tie game at 54-54 when the horn sounded to end regulation.

Carraway had another huge quarter firing in nine points to help bring the ‘Landers back. Eli Morgan also played a significant role by swishing home a pair of treys while Cooper Smith also found distance on a three. Hardin scored five in the quarter to make sure that the Rangers were in a position to force the overtime session.

When it counted the most, the Highlanders put it in the hands of the junior Carraway to lead the way to victory as he connected on 6-of-6 from the foul line in the overtime session and the Cloudland faithful erupted when the final clock sounded to end the contest for the win.

Carraway finished the contest with a game-high 31 points. Morgan had one of his better games after returning from an injury to score 12 points. Smith finished in double figures with 10. Urijah Jarrett (7) and Kingston Cole (6) closed out the scoring ledger for the Highlanders.

For Unaka, Hardin finished with a team-high 13 points with Walsh netted 12 before fouling out late. Lambert also finished in double digits with 11 while Marcus Shoemaker made the fourth Ranger to score double figures with 10. Mason Wilson (6), Rylan Crabtree (4), Logan Lewis (4), and Collin Fuel (3) balanced the scoring ledger for the Rangers.