Cloudland girls capture 1-A region title

Jeff Birchfield • Feb 26, 2014 at 10:46 PM

AFTON — Two Courtneys trumped one Mendy in the Region 1-A girls’ basketball championship.

With big games from Courtney Wilson and Courtney Clarke, Cloudland took a 46-42 win over North Greene on Wednesday night at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.

Clarke, a 5-foot-2 senior guard, scored 18 points to lead the Lady Highlanders. Wilson, an agile post who was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, added 16 points, including three shots behind the 3-point line.

“I’ve never really played outside,” Wilson said. “I’ve always played inside, but they were pounding me inside. I tried a little different way to score. I’ve played with Courtney all my life and she’s really good at what she does. She was able to drive and get me some open shots.”

Their efforts allowed the Lady ’Landers to overcome a 22-point, 12-rebound effort from North Greene star and ETSU signee Mendy McNeese. Cloudland (31-5) will now host Meigs County in a sectional game on Saturday at 7 p.m. with a chance to go to their third straight state tournament.”

“We knew tonight was going to be down to the wire,” Cloudland coach Matt Birchfield said. “Our kids played hard and North Greene, you can’t take a thing away from them. Our kids just made some big plays and Wilson and Clarke made some big shots down the stretch. They just rise to the challenge. We did some good things in the second half and we had to because Mendy is such a great player.”

McNeese and her Lady Huskies teammates (24-10) will go on the road to face Grace Christian.

With ETSU coach Brittney Ezell in attendance, McNeese scored 12 of North Greene’s first 16 points, helping her team take a four-point lead.

Not to be outdone, Clarke hit four 3-point goals for Cloudland as the Lady Highlanders fought back to take a 22-21 halftime lead.

Cloudland continued to lead throughout the third quarter and into the fourth before North Greene’s Lauren Baxter tied it 38-all on a 3-pointer with 2:42 left in the game.

McNeese put the Lady Huskies ahead 39-38 at the free-throw line, only to have Clarke hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key for a 41-39 Cloudland lead.

Clarke later sank two free throws to give the Lady ’Landers some breathing room, and she made a pair of game-clinching free throws with 6.5 seconds left.

Besides her scoring, Clarke created opportunities for others with a game-high six assists.

“They went man-to-man tonight and I knew if I could drive, I could find my teammates, especially ‘Kit-Kat’ (Wilson)” Clarke said. “It was like we were going back and forth. That’s how us Courtneys are. We have those brainwaves going on. We worked hard to get a home sub-state game on Saturday night, and we’re extremely happy.”

North Greene coach James Buchanan liked the effort of his team, particularly the way the Lady Huskies rallied from the third-quarter deficit to pull ahead.

“They showed a lot of resiliency,” Buchanan said. “Maybe fatigue set in and we missed some shots late, but they’re a handful. When we missed defensive assignments, they made us pay every time. They are a very good team.”

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