By Matt Myers
The Cloudland Lady Jr. Highlanders scrapped, clawed and distributed their way to gutsy 25-21 victory over the Chuckey Doak Lady Jr. Black Knights Saturday night in the Championship round of the Quad-County Conference junior varsity tournament at Happy Valley Middle School.
For Cloudland head coach Ashley Turbyfill, the win represented a shift in her team’s preparation that began at the close of the Varsity season.
“Three weeks ago these girls on the Junior Varsity team decided to intensify their dedication to hard work in practice, and tonight that was the winning edge for us,” said Turbyfill after a jubilant Lady Highlander squad serenaded her with a locker-room version of the birthday song.
“we have improved game by game, but especially in these last three weeks. Tonight, the girls believed in each other and executed our game plan that was designed to slow down their attack and keep the ball away from their bigs. I am just really proud of the number of girls that stepped up in this victory.”
All-tournament performer Shian Strickland put the cap on a 5-0 Cloudland run at the outset with a deep corner trey for three of her five points on the night.
Although the fireworks early would allow the Lady ‘Landers to stay just ahead of the Jr. Black Knights, defensive play by Cloudland would come to dominate the opening half.
As Chuckey Doak searched for a consistent route to the basket, the ladies from Afton saw passing lanes disappear amidst a furious Lady ‘Lander full-court press. The result was a half in which the Lady Knights could never take advantage of their height near the basket.
As a result, ‘Landers were able to hold most of the game’s first-half momentum on their side of the floor.
The second half was much the same story as both teams struggled to find scoring prowess amidst harassing full-court defense. Although the defensive intensity of Cloudland made it impossible for Doak to ever grab the lead, the solid play of forward Taylor Southerland, amidst a 13-point night, coupled with tough transition defense allowed the Knights to move within one point at the close of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Lady ‘Landers provide a four-point push in the last two minutes that would ultimately seal their championship victory. DonRae Taylor’s 15-footer from the foul line with 40 seconds to go, two of the youngster’s four points on the evening, ignited the Cloudland faithful in attendance and gave the ‘Landers a lead they would not relinquish.
Happy Valley 40
The Hampton Jr. Bulldogs squad used a fast-paced transistion attack and scoring exectution to sail past the Jr. Warriors 62-40 for top honors.
All-tournament selection Chris Holtsclaw exploded with quick post scoring, amidst the rabid Bulldog attack, to the tune of 24 points and six boards. Teammate Adam McClain contributed 12 points of his own and Wyatt Lyons turned in 10 in the victory that was not only well rounded, but filled with complete effort as well.
Carolina blue clad Bulldog head coach Dewayne Humphrey was impressed with his team’s ability to execute the kind of fatigue-causing, fast-paced attack the Bulldog skipper prefers.
“We really stress keeping the tempo up in practice and it was great to see the guys commit to that so vehemently tonight,” said Humphrey before the trophy presentations. “All year we have stressed being able to use our conditioning and pace to breed fatigue in our opponent. Tonight the guys put all that at the forefront and took home a championship.”
Although the Jr. Warriors were able to keep pace with the Hampton attack in the early going, the aforementioned fatigue began to rear its ugly head late in the first half – and the Jr. Bulldogs took full advantage.
Sterling cuts to the basket off press-busting passes resulted in easy breakaway baskets for the Jr. Bulldogs, and pushed momentum to their side of the floor early in the second quarter.
A deep corner trey from Seth Anderson at the :30 mark helped pushed the Hampton advantage to 36-22 at the intermission.
Although Austin Hicks would emerge as a consistent threat for the Jr. Warriors in the post with 18 points on the night, the Jr. Bulldogs would continue to maintain their advantage by way of the transistion game in the second half.
Deep treys from Holtsclaw and Dru Owens pushed the Jr. Bulldog advantage to as many as 25 points late and counteracted every small threat the Jr. Warriors posed. The game was not in doubt as early as the end of the third quarter, and both teams were able to sub late in order to get all their players championship game experience.