ELIZABETHTON — A great team performance trumped a great individual performance Tuesday night.
Cloudland beat Unaka 73-64 at Snavely Gym despite a 30-point performance by the Rangers’ Billy Bales.
In an earlier girls game, Brooke Rhodes totaled 24 points and 20 rebounds to lead Cloudland to a 62-44 decision over Unaka.
Bales was knocking shots down with a flurry in the opening stages, scoring 18 of Unaka’s first 21 points.
Depsite his efforts, the Highlanders used a balanced attack, led by Zac Potter’s 21 points and Dylan McClellan’s 17 points to win the Watauga Valley Conference showdown.
Jonathan Hill also reached double figures with 10 points, while Devin Whitehead and Taylor Whitehead were right behind with nine and eight, respectively.
“We have a lot of kids who can score with the ball,” Cloudland head coach Brandon Carpenter said. “It makes us a hard team to scout, hard to stop. Most of all, I’m proud of the game plan our assistant coaches had coming in, and how the kids executed what they needed to.”
Riding high behind Bales’ scoring, the Rangers pulled out to a 26-19 lead in the second quarter, only to fall behind 30-27 at the break. Head coach Aaron Dugger pointed to it as the turning point in the game.
“I told them at halftime, we had about a six-point lead and then they went into halftime with the lead,” Dugger said. “We had that stretch where we were settling for jumpers, got caught up in how the game was going. That little stretch put us in a hole.”
Cloudland built on the lead in the third quarter, pushing the margin out to 11 points. Unaka closed to 50-44 heading into the final period, only to see the Highlanders stretch the lead back to double digits three minutes later.
The Rangers, who fell to 0-1 in the league and 9-10 overall, dipped into the lead a couple more times, but each time Cloudland responded.
Logan Carrier scored 13 points and Danny Bales ended with 11 points, but their efforts weren’t enough to overcome Cloudland consistently making plays to stay ahead in the second half.
“We’ve talked about composure, not only for this game, but all year in big games,” Carpenter said. “I thought we stayed composed, especially in this environment.”
Cloudland (girls) 62
The Lady Rangers simply had no answer for Brooke Rhodes.
Rhodes, the Lady Highlanders’ 6-foot-2 junior center, nearly had a double-double in the first half with 12 points and nine rebounds. She built on those totals in the second half, ending with 24 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Cloudland, which got 10 points and eight rebounds from Courtney Wilson, improved to 2-0 in the Watauga Valley Conference and 17-3 overall. Unaka fell to 0-1 in the league and 8-9 overall.
There was no doubt Rhodes was the game-changer as the Lady ’Landers never trailed and held a 43-28 rebounding edge.
“The coaches had told me earlier in the week it would be hard to guard me and ‘Kit Kat’ (Wilson) because of our size,” Rhodes said. “When we found out they were going to play behind us, we knew all we had to do was get in there and push them down. We left it in the guard’s hands to get it into us.”
Alicia Colbaugh paced Unaka with 13 points and eight rebounds. Autumn Bradshaw added a dozen points and six rebounds in the loss.