In the end, Cloudland had just enough in the tank.
The Lady ‘Landers took an emotional 43-42 victory over Unaka in the District 1-A Semifinals inside Sonny Smith Gymnasium on Saturday. The win came a day after the passing of Bill Birchfield – Cloudland Head Coach Matt Birchfield’s father and a Cloudland legend.
The Lady ‘Landers secured a spot in Monday’s District 1-A Championship game where they will play North Greene at North Greene, while Unaka will host Hampton in the consolation game on Monday. Both teams will advance to the Region 1-A tournament.
Cloudland took control early on.
Jasmine Birchfield knocked down a pair of free throws for the first points of the game, but Unaka’s Lyndie Ramsey and Julie Simerly knocked down points to give Unaka a 4-2 lead.
Cloudland answered with a bucket from Mandy Benfield, and CHS reeled off the next nine points that gave Cloudland an 11-4 lead after a quarter of play.
The Lady Rangers closed the gap to four points with points from Simerly and Ramsey. CHS, however, answered with points from Birchfield and Benfield.
After the teams traded points, Cloudland ended the half on an 8-0 run to take a 25-13 lead into the half.
Unaka, however, didn’t go quietly.
Gracie Freeman opened the second half with a 3-pointer, while Mailey Guy opened the scoring for the Lady Rangers. Cloudland answered a quick 4-0 Unaka run with a Heaven Caraway bucket, but the Lady Rangers battled back to close the gap to 34-26 after three complete quarters.
In the fourth quarter, a Kiki Forney 3-pointer pulled Unaka within five points with just under six minutes to play. Cloudland, however, saw Birchfield and Saharra McKinney hit shots to push the lead back out to nine points.
Ramsey battled back with eight straight points over a two-minute stretch that closed the gap to 40-39 with just over a minute to play. Cloudland pushed the lead back out, but Unaka had an opportunity to tie the game in the closing seconds.
However, the play was unable to get off and Cloudland secured the win with another free throw.
Cloudland was paced by Birchfield’s 14 points, while McKinney had seven points. Benfield added six points.
Ramsey led Unaka with 25 points, while Guy and Forney had six points apiece. Simerly had five points.
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