ROAN MOUNTAIN - The North Greene girls sure do have a flare for the dramatics when it comes to basketball games. On Tuesday Another thrilling contest ended in another thrilling win on the road for the Lady Huskies with a 40-38 victory over Cloudland.
“A win on the road in this league is hard to come by. Especially against a team like Cloudland who is as well-coached and talented as they are,” North Greene Head Coach James Buchanan said.
The top-seeded Lady Highlanders fell short in their comeback attempt as clutch free throw shooting down the stretch from Zoe Sanders, Cambell Gaby, and Sonya Wagner helped North Greene escape with a narrow victory.
North Greene now sits only a game behind Hampton and Cloudland who are now tied for first place in the District 1-A standings.
It was a tough day leading up to tip-off for the Lady Huskies. With one player being ruled out early in the day and another questionable to play due to sickness, it was a satisfying victory nonetheless after it was all set and done.
Buchanan mentioned, “It’s a good win for us and right now we’re just thankful. We had Heidi Harmon with a car accident earlier today and she’s not banged up too awful bad. We’re happy that she’s not hurt and we had Sonya who’s been sick all day. We actually learned right before the game that she had an aunt pass away. She just had all kinds of things going on physically, emotionally, and mentally. Then I look at the book and she comes up here and scores twelve and they were really timely baskets too.”
Wagner didn’t let a little bit of sickness and a bad day slow her down though. She scored North Greene’s first three points of the game with the first point coming at the free throw line and the next two happened after a steal on defense that turned into a quick layup.
Zoe Sanders got a running layup to drop off the glass to extend the Lady Husky lead.
Ella Benfield had a tough time in the paint to start the night and North Greene’s interior defense did a great job shutting her down in the early stages. She finally broke through with a layup that turned into a three-point play after a foul was called and she drained the foul shot. She began to gain her rhythm with a mid-range basket to follow.
Grace Buchanan and Haley Bailey provided layups to help keep the Lady Huskies in front. North Greene held a slim 11-8 lead after the first quarter.
The Lady Highlanders seemed to be getting the best of North Greene on the offensive glass with two boards on their first possession of the second half. The second rebound by Izabella Christman led to a layup by Ryan Turbyfill.
After scoring the first three points of the contest, Sonya Wagner went cold from the field but was able to sink a three-point shot to help build their momentum late in the second quarter. Mercy Buchanan followed up with another three-point bomb for a six-point swing on back-to-back possessions.
Christman received the ball on the block and quickly rolled off her right shoulder for a turnaround in the low post.
Each team’s last possession would fall flat and both teams went into the break with North Greene holding a 17-14 advantage over Cloudland.
The third quarter saw both teams trade early buckets and keep each other within striking distance.
Izabella Christman started the second half with the same exact post move in the paint to instantly cut their deficit down to one point. Zoe Sanders finished a layup strong with her left hand to drop two more through the net. Ella Benfield nailed a two-point jumper from the free throw line next.
The Lady Huskies then went on an 8-0 run in the third quarter that gave them enough cushion to use the clock to their advantage for the rest of the game.
Sonya Wagner got the run started with a mid-range make from the elbow. Zoe Sanders picked her opponents pocket and raced to the hoop for an and-1 play. Cambell Gaby capped off the scoring party with a three-point bucket in the corner. North Greene jumped ahead 27-18 after the run had concluded.
Kendall Birchfield nailed a three-point shot from the top of the key to halt the run.
North Greene’s lead sat at 28-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Izabella Christman grabbed another offensive board and earned a layup through her efforts.
Grace Buchanan drained a three-pointer and Wagner pulled up from the free throw line to drop two more through the net.
Ryan Turbyfill knocked down a left-handed runner off the glass to ignite Cloudland’s comeback attempt.
After North Greene attempted to waste clock with less than two minutes left and turned the ball over, Hannah Miller blocked Ella Benfield’s layup on a clutch defensive stand that proved to be one of the most important possessions of the game.
The fouling would start early and Zoe Sanders would cash both free throws at the line.
“I thought Zoe played great. Outside of maybe one turnover and one blown defensive assignment, I think she controlled this game and became a scoring threat for us,” Coach Buchanan expressed.
Ella Benfield sank a three-point jumper to bring Cloudland’s deficit down to 35-30.
Cambell Gaby dropped two more free throws through the net after the made three.
Benfield missed a running bank shot on Cloudland’s next possession, but Hannah Miller missed the front end of a one-and-one that allowed Makenzie Street to knock down a three-pointer from beyond the perimeter.
Sonya Wagner was the next North Greene player to step up to the free throw line and went one-for-two.
Ella Benfield scored a layup to keep Cloudland’s momentum intact.
After the layup, there was some confusion on the court as Coach Buchanan waited until the four-second mark of an inbounds play to call a timeout. Although one referee granted him the timeout, another ruled a five-second violation on the Lady Huskies. After a discussion at mid-court, the officials ruled that North Greene’s timeout was called before the violation and the timeout was given.
They’d successfully inbound the ball after the timeout and Sonya Wagner would get a chance to ice the game with two more free throws. She’d only make one-of-two at the line again and the door still remained open for Cloudland to stage a comeback.
Another three-point basket from Ella Benfield cut the lead down to one with less than ten seconds remaining on the clock.
Coach Buchanan used the clock to his advantage again and let the time run down to the last second before calling another timeout.
Zoe Sanders was fouled with 0.3 seconds left and made the first and missed the second on purpose to eliminate any chance for Cloudland to make a last second heave at the basket.
North Greene escaped with another close victory on the road to improve to 4-2 within the D1-A Conference.
“I don’t much like how things played out down the stretch. We had to use a little strategy there. We were trying to let the clock run out and use our timeouts wisely,” Buchanan expressed. “I didn’t really want to have to be doing all that stuff late. If we’re getting stops then that stuff is unnecessary. They came down and hit three threes in the last thirty seconds. We’ve got to guard the three-point line better when we’ve got the lead.”
Zoe Sanders led the way with a team-high 13 points and Sonya Wagner followed closely behind her with 12 points.
Ella Benfield poured in a game-high 18 points.
With tonight’s final outcome, Cloudland suffered their first loss within the district and move into a tie with Hampton at the top of the standings. The Lady Huskies now sit a half-game back of first place.
They’ll need some help if they want to reach the top spot in the standings by the seasons end, but the possibility is still there. North Greene would still need to beat Hampton on the road and hope the Lady Highlanders suffer another loss to force a three-way tie.
NORTH GREENE 57, CLOUDLAND 42
It was a tale of two quarters on Tuesday night atop Roan Mountain. Two 20-plus point quarters were enough to fuel North Greene to a 57-42 victory over Cloudland, but not without some struggles along the way.
“We started sluggish, played a really good second quarter, and they went with one of those junk defenses there in the third and we couldn’t get our guys to settle down. They were giving us wide-open shots but they just get sped up. But anytime you go on the road and get a conference win it’s good,” Huskies Head Coach Sam Tarlton said.
A four-point third quarter allowed the Highlanders to erase a fifteen-point halftime deficit and climb their way back within four points of the lead. But the Huskies finally were able to remove the lid from off the basket and cruise home in the fourth period of play.
Jason Britton had an easy first half putting twenty-one points on the board, but was limited to only one point in the second half. Cloudland’s halftime adjustments made things a little more difficult for North Greene to put points on the board. Once the boys in green were able to settle down and maintain their composure, they put the game out of reach with a dominant showing in the fourth quarter.
“The other guys got to step up. It took us awhile but we finally figured it out,” Tarlton mentioned.
Luca May put the first two points on the board for North Greene and Bennett McLain followed with the next two on a baseline jumper assisted by Sam English.
Eli Morgan’s first of many three-point buckets was banked in from the top of the key. Ryan Sexton drained another triple from downtown. The duo of Morgan and Sexton combined for 30 of Cloudland’s 42 points and both combined for eight three-pointers.
Another duo that worked well together in the first quarter was Bennett McLain and Sam English. After English assisted McLain’s bucket earlier, the roles were reversed the next time around with McLain dishing an assist to English in the paint.
Eli Morgan and Jason Britton traded three-point bombs to close out the first quarter. North Greene led 11-9 after eight minutes played.
The second quarter was where Jason Britton started heating up and shooting lights out. The junior guard posted a 16-point quarter and buried four three-point buckets.
The Huskies started the new quarter on a 16-0 run with Britton knocking down three triples to get them into a rhythm. Luca May scored four-straight next with a turnaround fade and a running floater in the paint. Britton nailed his fourth trey of the period to put North Greene ahead 27-9.
Ryan Sexton helped trim down the deficit with two more three-point field goals, including one at the buzzer going into the half.
The Huskies went into their locker room holding a 33-18 lead at the half.
Once both teams took the floor at the start of the third, things drastically changed. The Highlanders caught fire and went on a lengthy run of their own scoring eleven-straight points to cut North Greene’s lead down to only four.
Auston Caraway banked in a three-point basket from the wing and Eli Morgan stripped the nets for two more three-balls along with a two-point bucket to make the score 33-29.
Jason Britton was tasked with plenty of double teams and traps in the second half that made it hard for him to get a shot off. When he wasn’t contributing on the scoreboard, he was contributing in other ways on the defensive end. He swatted Morgan’s layup attempt that proved to be the end of Cloudland’s run.
Dennis Malone came down the floor to softly float two points through the net afterwards. Lawson Davenport pump-faked his way to an easy layup in transition.
The Huskies held on to a 37-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a much easier ride with North Greene outscoring Cloudland 20-11 to coast home with a win. The adjustments made by Coach Tarlton going into the final eight minutes were simple.
“Just settle down,” Tarlton said. “They want to go as fast as they can against that stuff. If they would just look it’s four-on-three. It’s just like a four-on-three drill in practice. If you just drive, make a jump-stop, and look the opposite side, you’re shooting a layup.”
Dennis Malone was a key player in the second half scoring all nine of his points in the second half and seven of those coming in the fourth. He started it off with a layup underneath.
“Dennis had a great third and fourth quarter there. He’s probably our second-best natural scorer and it was good to see that from him,” Coach Tarlton expressed.
Nick Caraway and Luca May traded layups next.
Malone sprinted ahead of everybody on defense for another layup off the backboard thanks to an assist from Britton. A three-point dagger would put the game out of reach and ice the game as North Greene mounted another double-digit lead late in the fourth.
The Huskies would end up stealing a game on the road and cruise home with a 57-42 winning effort over Cloudland.
Jason Britton dropped a game-high 22 points with five three-point buckets. Luca May broke the double-digit mark with 10 points. Bennett McLain and Dennis Malone each added 9 points apiece.
Eli Morgan led the Highlanders with 16 points and four three-pointers. Ryan Sexton also hit four triples in a 14-point effort.