By Rick Sheek
BRISTOL, Va. — The Unaka girls’ basketball team seems to thrive on facing top-notch competition from across the state line.
That is certainly the case for the second straight December. The Lady Rangers edged Gate City 47-45 on Friday night in the Borderline Classic semifinals at the Bearcat Den.
“I think the fans would love to see 30-point blowouts by us every night, but these are the tough games early in the season — a grind-it-out win that really shows what your team is made of,” said Unaka coach Wes Wright. “We grinded it out, we made our free throws down the stretch and we got some stops. Big for our girls to be back in the championship game, two years in a row.”
The Rangers (3-3) advanced to Saturday night’s title game against Wise Central. A year ago, Unaka knocked off defending state champion Virginia High in this tournament.
Wise Central 54
The Highlanders trailed by nine in the fourth quarter, before cutting the deficit to 48-46 with 2:07 remaining.
In the final minute, Faith Russell’s put-back brought Cloudland within 50-48. The Warriors iced the outcome at the line, going 4 of 4.
“We did get back into it,” Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield said. “We cut it to two late in the game. We had a couple of miscommunications on defense, and gave them a quick bucket there.
“But I felt like the start of the game is how we’ve kind of got to play the whole game. The middle part of our game we had a lot of turnovers, so many turnovers that we’ve got to cut out of our game.”