It was a pair of tight county battles on Saturday inside Sonny Smith Gymnasium.
Unaka picked up a pair of District 1-A wins with the Lady Rangers holding off Cloudland for a 53-47 victory, while Unaka outlasted the ‘Landers for a 56-54 victory in the boys’ game.
In the girls’ game, the first half was a game of runs.
Cloudland used points from Ella Benfield and Isabella Christman to take a 4-0 lead, but Unaka answered with a 9-3 run sparked by Kiki Forney and Lyndie Ramsey to counter.
Kendall Birchfield snapped the run with a trey of her own before the teams traded buckets to end the first quarter tied at 12-12.
Ramsey and the Lady Rangers jumped out early in the second as they reeled off 12 of the first 14 points in the frame.
Cloudland, however, saw Christman spark a 9-3 run to end the half to cut the Unaka lead to 27-23 at the half.
The ‘Landers grabbed momentum to open the third as Christman hit back-to-back shots to even things up.
After the teams traded shots, Cloudland regained a slim lead – including a buzzer-beater shot to end the quarter – to take a 38-34 advantage after three quarters of play.
Unaka answered with a run of their own to open the fourth as an 11-0 regained the lead for UHS. The Lady ‘Landers, however, battled back with buckets from Sahara McKinney and Ryan Turbyfill to pull back within four.
The Lady Rangers used a big 3-pointer from Macy Ensor to answer the run and then held off another Cloudland charge to secure the win.
Ramsey led Unaka with 32 points. Ensor had 12 points, while Forney had five points.
Christman had 20 points to pace the Lady ‘Landers.
Ella Benfield and Turbyfill had eight points apiece.
In the boys’ game, it was a battle from the opening tip.
Unaka scored the first four points of the game, but Cloudland scored the next seven to take a 7-4 lead midway through the quarter.
The teams traded shots with Caleb Sluder and Caden Clarke hitting buckets to send Cloudland into the second quarter with a 12-9 lead.
Dylan McClellan and Sluder hit early shots as Cloudland pushed the lead to nine points, but Unaka countered with points from Joe-Z Blamo and Devin Ramsey.
The ‘Landers maintained a 26-22 advantage at the half.
Unaka opened the second half with a quick 8-2 run that was kickstarted by a trey from Joseph Slagle.
McClellan and Sluder combined for a quick 6-0 run for Cloudland, but Marcus Shomaker answered with a 6-0 run of his own for the Rangers to take a slim lead.
The teams traded shots to end the quarter as Unaka held a 40-39 advantage to the final quarter.
The final quarter was a battle as neither team was able to get any breathing room.
After Unaka pushed the lead to five points, Cloudland used a 7-0 run t0 take a 46-44 lead with 4:40 left to play.
Gavin Seigfried used an old-fashioned 3-point play to put Unaka back in front.
Cloudland tied things up at 51-51 with just over a minute to play with a bucket from McClellan, but Blamo took care of business on the free-throw line to put Unaka back in front.
The Rangers held on in the frantic final seconds to take the win.
Blamo had 19 points to pace the Rangers, while Slagle added 11 points. Ramsey added eight points.
Sluder finished with 17 points for Cloudland. McClellan ended the night with 16 points, while Clarke had eight points.
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