BY WAYNE PHILLIPS
SPORTS EDITOR EMERITUS
To borrow some auto racing terminology, a blown engine leaves oil splattered all over the place.
After watching a 17-point third quarter lead evaporate Friday night, it looked as if the North Greene Huskies were leaking oil badly, and the engine was about to sputter to a halt.
But suddenly Coach Brandon Broyles' Huskies found another gear, weathered Unaka's furious rally, and the end result was an exciting 65-60 North Greene victory over the defending Watauga Valley Conference champs.
The win capped off a doubleheader sweep for the home team in a showdown between the two old league rivals as the Lady Huskies prepped for a trip to Florida next week with an easy 62-37 romp in the opener at Jerome Woolsey Gymnasium.
WEATHERING THE STORM
For fans who watch District 1-A basketball regularly, you just knew that Unaka had a rally in them, even when they trailed by 17 points early in the third quarter.
The rally did come in a big way, led by the pinpoint shooting of Eli Rasnick, who scored a game-best 25 for the night, and Logan Carrier, who dumped in 20.
But the Huskies never gave up the lead, even though Unaka cut it to a single bucket at 47-45 early in the final period. And they were able to weather the storm with some strong inside play by Brett Pollock down the stretch, who cleaned off the boards with authority, and the team made enough free throws in the closing minutes to pull out the win.
"I'm real proud of the kids," Coach Broyles said when it was over. "That's a great Unaka team. They beat UH (University High) by 20-some the other night. It was the first conference win for us. We manned up when things got tough, and we were able to weather the storm."
Pollock, the 6-2 senior post, got his team off to a good start with nine first period points as the Huskies immediately showed they had come to play by taking a 19-11 lead at the first rest stop. But foul trouble sent Pollock to the bench in the second quarter and part of the third. When he returned, there was a marked improvement in the play of North Greene.
"Pollock has improved so much," Broyles said. "It's amazing where he's at now compared to where he used to be. And what I love about him is he's a gym rat. He's shooting an amazing percentage from the floor and we've got to find ways to get him the ball."
He finished with 11 rebounds and 14 points on the night, and many of those rebounds came in the final quarter when Unaka's furious rally was at its peak.
Senior guard Brett Bolton led North Greene with 17 points and made 9-of-11 free throws, which were especially valuable in the fourth quarter when the Huskies were trying to hang onto the ball. Senior Tyler Bailey chipped in with 12, and Broyles got some great help off the bench in senior Hayden Mullins and junior Will West, especially after starter Tanner Collins left the game early in the second half with an injury.
North Greene led 38-23 at intermission, and a basket by Pollock to start the second half left the Huskies with their largest advantage, 17 points, 40-23.
But the big Unaka spurt was a 16-3 run, spurred by Rasnick and Carrier, and the once seemingly safe lead was down to 47-42 by the end of the third canto.
Carrier nailed a 3-pointer to start the fourth and close the gap to 47-45, and they got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead but misfired on a shot.
Bolton then stopped the oil leak by canning one from behind the arc deep in the corner for a 50-45 NG lead.
North Greene then used the free throw line to stay out front, but the lead was never completely safe. Carrier's 3-pointer with 20 seconds left had the Unaka deficit at 63-60, but Bolton was immediately fouled and sank both free tosses to ice the victory.
The win gave the Huskies a 1-1 conference mark, 7-5 overall, while Unaka drops to 1-1 in the league and 6-7 overall.
UNAKA (60): Searfoss 0 1-2 1, Logan Carrier 7 3-4 20, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Eli Rasnick 10 3-4 25, Alex Baltaji 5 1-1 11, Yerks 1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 23 8-11 60.
NORTH GREENE (65): Collins 1 0-0 2, Brett Bolton 3 9-11 17, Hall 1 0-0 3, Tyler Bailey 3 4-6 12, Brett Pollock 5 4-7 14, Mullins 3 1-2 7, Britton 0 2-4 2, West 4 0-0 8. TOTALS: 20 20-30 65.
3-Point Goals: Una-6 (Carrier 3, Rasnick 2, Yerks). NG-5 (Bolton 2, Bailey 2, Hall).
Score by quarters:
Unaka 11 12 19 18--60
North Greene 19 19 9 18--65
LADY HUSKIES CRUISE
The North Greene girls are going to Orlando, Fla., next week for a tournament, and they will leave feeling pretty good about themselves after dumping Unaka 62-37 Friday night.
Senior Mendy McNeese led the way with 21 points and got the Huskies off to a great start by scoring 13 in the opening quarter as she made 4-of-5 from the floor and all five foul shots she attempted. North Greene was up 18-9 at the first rest stop, and they continued to pull away with a 13-6 scoring advantage in the second to take a 31-15 halftime edge.
"Defensively I thought we played pretty well," Coach James Buchanan said. "We closed them off pretty well inside and getting off to a good start in the game sure helped."
The Huskies had the contest salted away with a 51-24 edge after three stanzas as they improved to 8-4 overall and 2-0 in the conference.
Katelyn Weems added 17 points for North Greene while Lauren Baxter had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Unaka (3-9, 1-1) was led by Brandi Ensor with 14 points and six rebounds.
The first game for the Huskies in the Orlando tournament will be Thursday at 12:30 p.m. when they take on McGuffey High School from Pennsylvania. Their second game Friday will be against either a team from Canada or a squad from Staten Island, N.Y., depending upon the outcome of Thursday's contest.
UNAKA (37): Tipton 1 1-2 4, J.Matheson 1 0-0 3, Brandi Ensor 6 2-2 14, Drew 0 0-0 0,. Campbell 3 2-3 9, Doss 1 0-0 2, S.Matheson 2 0-0 5. TOTALS: 14 5-7 37.
NORTH GREENE (62): Katelyn Weems 7 1-2 17, Bowser 1 0-0 3, Ma.McNeese 0 0-1 0, Lauren Baxter 2 7-12 11, Mendy McNeese 8 5-5 21, Hale 3 0-2 8, Sensabaugh 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 22 13-21 62.
3-Point Goals: Una-4 (Tipton, J.Matheson, Campbell, S.Matheson). NG-5 (Weems 2, Hale 2, Bowser).
Score by quarters:
Unaka 9 6 9 13--37
North Greene 18 13 20 11--62