MOUNTAIN CITY — For three quarters of Monday night’s game at Ray Shoun Gym the Unaka Rangers had momentum mostly to themselves. But momentum is a fickle thing and it can turn on you very quickly as Johnson County showed by overcoming an eight-point deficit to knock off the Rangers 61-59 on senior night.
“We had a little stretch there where we turned the ball over four or five times in six possessions,” said Rangers head coach Aaron Dugger. “We quit rebounding in the fourth quarter and they had about 10 points on putback shots. That was pretty much the ball game.”
Unaka (14-16 overall) led after one period 16-12 and extended to a 34-23 advantage by the break which, was exclamated by a halfcourt buzzer beater by Danny Bales going into the locker room.
Bales’ three-pointer gave the Rangers their biggest lead of the night, which the Longhorns trimmed to 45-37 by the end of the third period as Longhorns senior point guard Dustin Stout picked up his game and his team.
Stout picked off a Unaka pass at midcourt and drove to the hoop, where he was fouled by Rangers guard Spencer Nave — who was whistled for an intentional foul.
“That was a big play by Dustin there,” said Longhorns head coach Austin Atwood. “We got an intentional foul on that play and he makes both free throws and we get the ball back. That was one of the biggest plays of the game.”
Chase Phillips opened the final stanza with a deuce for JC and the ’Horns closed to within 46- 43 on baskets by Carlton Tugman and another from Phillips, but Billy Bales and Nave responded for the Rangers with back-to-back hoops.
A trey from Stout made it a 50-48 contest with 4:25 remaining in regulation and after a timeout Danny Bales tallied a deuce for Unaka.
After Billy Bales hit one–of– two at the line Dalton Timbs canned a triple and Stout hit both ends of a one-and-one to tie the score at 53-53 with 2:38 showing on the clock.
“Bales is as good as there is around here,” said Atwood. “He will pick you apart, but we played a solid game tonight and kept him in check. We rebounded much better in the
fourth quarter than we had all game and that might have been the difference.”
Bales finished with a team high 18 points while Carrier scored 12.
For the ‘Horns, forward Brian Dempsey led the way with 13 while both Stout and Phillips each added 11.
Ryan Mahala gave the Longhorns their first lead of the game with a pair from the charity stripe and Timbs was also good on two free throws before a deuce by Unaka senior post Austin Clawson made it 57-56.
Phillips nailed a basket in the paint with 42 ticks left to give JC a three point lead, but Ranger guard Logan Carrier found the stroke on a long three point shot to tie the score once again at 59-59.
Mahala scored off an offensive rebound down low with just two seconds left to bring the home crowd to it’s feet and give the Longhorns (11-16) a victory in the last home game of the 2011-12 season.
Johnson County……….59 (OT)
A game that never saw either team have more than a five-point lead, the Lady Rangers had what it took in the end as sophomore post Brandi Ensor’s bucket tipped the scales for Unaka.
The Lady Longhorns (10-16) opened with a flourish and took a 16-12 advantage after one quarter, but Unaka (13-15) rallied to knot the score at 24-24 at the break.
Unaka rode a pair of threes by guard Alicia Colbaugh and one by Autumn Bradshaw to a 45-43 lead going into the fourth quarter, but this contest was just heating up.
A furious fourth quarter of action saw JC take a 55-50 lead with under 3:30 left, but Colbaugh hit a pair of buckets sandwiched around a free throw by Bradshaw to tie the game once again at 55-55.
“Johnson County played a great game,” said Lady Rangers head coach Wes Wright. “They fight for every loose ball and they run a million sets. Tonight, we didn’t get Kassie (Winters) into a rhythm — because when we do, she’s one of the best shooters in the area. She got into foul trouble and we had to sit her for a while.
“I feel fortunate to come up here and get a win and I can’t say enough about Kassie coming up with that loose ball at the end of the game. Brandi Ensor missed a couple of dinky dunkers, but her mentality is a shooter’s mentality. She can put a bad play behind her and make a big play the next minute. It’s good to have kids that young to have that mentality.”
Regulation ended with that score and overtime opened with a trey by Colbaugh, who finished with a team-high 17 points on the night. Brittany Lawson finished with 12 points and Ensor scored 11.
Sophomore post Brionna Reece scored a deuce for the ’Horns to make it a one-point game, and moments later found herself on the free-throw line with a chance to give her team the lead.
Reece canned both free throws with time dwindling down, but the Rangers calmly took the ball up the court, where Ensor grabbed an offensive rebound and the resulting putback gave Unaka the final lead of the night as the horn sounded just seconds later.
Johnson County’s Sarah Swift led all scorers on the night with 23 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Reece tallied 21 points and had seven boards.