Unaka had one mission on Saturday night to #defendthecreek, and that is exactly what they did.
The Lady Rangers punched their ticket to Murfreesboro for the second time in program history with a 53-45 thrilling victory over Tellico Plains in the Class A Substate action in front of a capacity crowd on Stoney Creek.
UHS will learn who they will face in the state quarterfinals on Sunday with the game being slated for either Wednesday night or Thursday morning. The last time that Unaka made the state tournament was during the 2003-04 season.
On Saturday night, the Lady Rangers were all business from the opening tip.
After the teams traded buckets to open the game, Lexi Garland and Sarah Tipton hit shots to spark a 10-0 UHS run. Mayah Parlier and Sydney Markland answered four straight Lady Bear free throws with back-to-back shots to lift UHS to a 17-8 lead after eight minutes of play.
The Lady Rangers continued to stay in control in the second as Sar. Tipton and Savannah Tipton hit early shots to push the lead to 12 points. After Tellico Plains closed to eight points, Erika Potter and Parlier went back to work inside. Unaka stained a 30-19 lead with just over two minutes to play in the half. The Lady Bears, however, answered in a big way. Tellico Plains ended the half on an 11-0 run – including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to tie the game at 30-30.
Offense came at a premium in the third quarter.
Garland, who was injured early in the game before returning in the second quarter, opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer. Neither team was able to get back on the board over the next four minutes until the Lady Bears added a jumper. Potter went to work for Unaka scoring the next four points, but Tellico Plains ended the quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 37-37 after three complete quarters.
The Lady Rangers left no doubt in the final quarter.
Garland and Parlier broke the stalemate with pints over the first three minutes of the quarter and the Unaka defense limited the Lady Bears to just four points over the first five minutes. The Tipton sisters added a pair of old-fashioned 3-point plays to seize momentum and Unaka never looked back from that point.
The senior Tipton hit four free throws late to set off the party amongst the Stoney Creek faithful.
Garland had 14 points to lead Unaka, while Parlier added 12 points for the Lady Rangers. Sar. Tipton and Sav. Tipton had nine points apiece. Potter finished with six points, and Markland added three points.
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