ROAN MOUNTAIN — Finally healthy, Cloudland looked like the team many predicted to win the Watauga Valley Conference championship on Friday night.
The Highlanders beat University High 81-54 at Sonny Smith Gymnasium to improve to 2-0 in the early league standings and 13-5 overall.
“We got after them on defense and forced a lot of turnovers,” Cloudland head coach Brandon Carpenter said. “We scored on some of them. I’m disappointed we didn’t capitalize on more of them. We missed some lay-ups that we have to finish. But, the defensive intensity was a lot better tonight than it was Tuesday night. We’re getting better every game.”
Cloudland made it a clean sweep with a 59-24 win in an earlier girls’ contest.
Dylan McClellan scored 24 points and Taylor Whitehead added a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds in the boys’ win. Still, Whitehead agreed with his coach that defense was the key to victory.
“I wasn’t happy with the way we beat Unaka by one point on Tuesday,” Whitehead said. “We wanted to lock down (Marcus) Taylor and contain (Seth) Hilbert from driving to the inside and kicking it out to Taylor. It worked out pretty good. We came out here and took care of business.”
Taylor ended with a team-high 24 points for University high (3-1, 12-6), but Hilbert, the team’s senior point guard, was held to three points after getting in foul trouble.
It was easily the largest margin of defeat for the Jr. Bucs, playing without second-leading scorer Joseph Phillips who is sidelined indefinitely with a back injury.
“Obviously we didn’t handle their pressure well,” UH head coach Justin Penley said. “We didn’t value the basketball at all and that’s disappointing. That’s something we worked at heading into this game and we’ve been pretty good at that.
“We’re playing a four-guard lineup right now. You would think if you’re playing four guards you would take better care of the ball. We just didn’t do that tonight, but you have to give them credit. They’re really good at the style of basketball they play.”
Cloudland took command early, racing out to an 11-2 and a 23-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Highlanders were up 38-22 at the half before UH rallied. Gabe Perry cut the margin to 50-39 with a 3-point basket midway through the third period.
However, the Highlanders quickly responded. They ended the quarter on an 11-0 run and led by over a 20-point margin the rest of the game.
The Highlanders had four players end with double figures including Devin Whitehead with 12 points and Zac Potter with 10 points.
Cloudland (girls) 59
University High 24
Brooke Rhodes had 16 points and 21 rebounds to lead the Lady Highlanders (2-0, 9-9) over the Lady Jr. Bucs (0-4, 8-7).
Leading 33-19 in the third quarter, Cloudland blew the game open with 22 straight points.
“We had a couple of kids hit 3’s, the big shots we’ve been looking for,” Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield said. “We’re doing better with our guard play. We’re making 3’s and making less turnovers. Our guard play is one thing we’re going to focus on to get better down the road.”
All 11 players scored for Cloudland with Courtney Wilson next highest with nine points. Taylor Treadway scored 13 in the loss for University High.