Lady Cherokees fall in region quarterfinals

Greenback School's Lily Morton drives to the basket Friday in the Lady Cherokees' 48-27 loss to the Unaka High School Lady Rangers in the Region 1-1A quarterfinals.

The Greenback School Lady Cherokees' postseason hopes were cut short Friday after falling 48-27 at home to the Unaka High School Lady Rangers in the Region 1-1A quarterfinals.

The Lady Cherokees jumped out to an 8-0 lead early in the first quarter before giving up 16 unanswered points.

"We started off very positively and turned them over and got looks out of that, and I thought we were going to be OK, and we hit some shots against their triangle and two, moving the ball around and then all of a sudden, everybody on the floor was cold and we couldn't get the ball to the two people that normally do most of the scoring," Angie Lucier, Greenback head girls basketball coach, said. "You've got to give it up, Unaka did a great job in their triangle and two. They didn't give up on it ... they stuck with it and broke us down."

The Lady Cherokees looked to spark a run in third quarter with a quick basket by Kierra Bishop to cut the lead to five, but Unaka responded with a 13-0 run to close out the quarter.

Junior guard Lily Morton hit a three-pointer early in the fourth to provide some hope of a comeback, but the Lady Rangers added 12 more points and limited Greenback to six fourth-quarter points.

Morris was frustrated with the team's inability to score while she and Bishop were locked down.

"They come out with a really hard triangle and two on me and Kiki (Kierra Bishop), and we're mainly our top two scorers," Morris said. "It hit us really hard, and we weren't prepared for that as well as we had hoped to. I mean, some of our players really stepped up tonight, like Lily and Mikah (Morris), they really contributed, but I felt like that was a big factor, we weren't as prepared as we should've been."

The Lady Cherokees began to press late in the second half, which caused turnovers and opportunities on offense.

"With the number of people I played, it's hard to start early because I know that's going to get us really worn out, especially the main people that have to do that," Lucier said. "We started it in the fourth quarter ... at the end of the third, we started getting really tight, and that's kind of what gave them some looks as far as some wide open drives and stuff because we were overplaying, trying to deny, forcing turnovers. They've got some long girls that can go to the rim, and they took advantage of that."

Unaka's emphasis on the inside game somewhat shocked Greenback's defense after playing the majority of the season in a guard-heavy game plan.

"We were definitely too tight on that, and we've been playing a lot of people that hit threes, and we've been working on don't get beat, and then we don't have to help but we still have to help if we get beat," Lucier said. "That's where we weren't quite doing that, and we made it look it easy."

The Lady Cherokees finish the season 11-16 overall and placed second in District 2-1A.

"We've had some adversity we've had to come through, and every year that happens," Lucier said. "We felt like we were going to have a system where we would be going five in and five out, but we had some injuries, some people not play, so we kind of changed gears to start. I felt like they adapted, and we tried to work with what we had and we had quite a bit of success for the size of people we play and what the size we are and how many people actually rotate in and out on our team. I'm proud of their effort."

Morris is thankful for the two years she played at Greenback and will start preparing for the next level as she heads to Cleveland State Community College in the fall.

"I feel like I've had a pretty good year this year. I've been able to contribute scoring-wise and on defense," she said. "My time at Greenback has been great for me, it's led me to great things, given me great opportunities, and I'm really, really going to miss it."