By Matt Myers
Given the storied nature of their basketball rivalry, it is rare to hear exaltation from both Warriors and Bulldogs leaving VanHuss/White Gymnasium in the winter.
This was the case, though, Saturday night as Happy Valley and Hampton captured victories in games three, four and five of the Climate Controllers Classic.
Against the backdrop of one of the most historic basketball venues in East Tennessee, the Lady Warriors rolled 78-47 over Cloudland, the Warriors started to find some sort of winning identity topping Sunbright 48-40, and Lady Bulldogs pleased the home fans in the nightcap with spurts of solid transition play to win over Sullivan East 62-45.
Without two of their most prolific scorers in Brooke Rhodes and Courtney Wilson due to injury, the Lady Highlanders’ arsenal was not packed with experience. It was the perfect opportunity for a youthful Happy Valley team (6-5) to gain winning experience — and they did in spades, cruising 78-47.
Junior guard MacKenzie Blankenship and freshman center Kalee Johnson captured 18 points apiece. Nine of Blankenship’s tallies came behind the arch, a testament to what was a Lady Warrior perimeter shooting clinic. Blankenship, Shalee Perry (13 pts. 4 assists), Jenna Eaton (10 pts.) and Annie Woods (6 pts.) would combine for 10 long strikes from downtown. Blankenship’s five assists were a big part of the Warriors’ ability to find the open shooter on the perimeter as well.