Lady Devils avenge previous loss

Kaitlin Bailey looks for an open teammate during the Lady Devils’ victory over Sullivan South last week in Erwin. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Kaitlin Bailey looks for an open teammate during the Lady Devils’ victory over Sullivan South last week in Erwin. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School girls varsity basketball team (6-15, 3-4) avenged a previous loss to a Three Rivers Conference opponent last week in Erwin.

Playing in the Devils’ Den on Friday, Jan. 20, the Lady Devils rode a strong start to a solid 51-34 victory over Sullivan South. Head coach Kerri King said her team has focused on improving its defensive effort since losing to south in December and that made the difference in Friday’s game.

“We held Mollie Leslie to 2 points tonight,” King told The Erwin Record. “She scored 21 over there. We had a better commitment to defense as a team and it felt good to get a conference win against a team that had beaten us earlier. That’s a credit to the girls’ resilience.”

Against South, the Lady Devils held a 6 point lead at the end of the first quarter and a 10 point lead, 26-16, at halftime. Six Lady Devils – Neelee Griffith, Kaylee Hendrickson, Ashley Edwards, Halie Padgett, Kenedy King and Kaitlin Bailey – scored in the first half, giving UCHS the balanced offensive attack King has been wanting to see from her team.

Padgett and Griffith combined for 10 points in the third quarter, as the Lady Devils built a 17 point lead, 39-22, going into the fourth quarter. South never threatened to get back into the game and UCHS came away with a 51-34 victory.

Griffith led the team in scoring with 15 points (1 3-pointer). She also had 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Padgett had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Hendrickson scored 7 (1 3-pointer) to go along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. King scored 7 (1 3-pointer). Bailey scored 4, Chloe Powers scored 2 and Edwards scored 2.

• • •

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a conference victory.

The Lady Devils got off to a very slow start on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Sullivan North, but received a boost from their bench as they defeated the Lady Golden Raiders 45-32.

“Having balanced scoring and the entire team contributing positive minutes is a huge lift,” King said. “I put young inexperienced players in during the first quarter and they stepped up against a team that was physical and outsized them. The game was messy but we showed scrap and fight. Learning how to win ugly games is essential.”

Nine Lady Devils scored during the victory.

Padget scored 8, Bailey scored 7, Ashtan Vance and Edwards (1 3-pointer) scored 5 each. Powers scored 4. Griffith, Allee Griffith and Hendrickson (1 3-pointer) scored 3 points each. Kaylia Street scored 2.

• • •

The Lady Devils opened play last week with a 72-61 loss to Happy Valley in conference action on Tuesday, Jan. 17. After trailing 21-14 at the end of the first quarter, UCHS fought back in the second quarter to trail 36-33 at the break.

The third quarter doomed the Lady Devils, as the Lady Warriors outscored UCHS 17-9 to lead 53-42 going into the fourth. This was the difference in the game, as the teams played even basketball the rest of the way.

Padgett and Griffith both had double-doubles in the game, allowing the Lady Devils to control the paint. Padgett scored 20 and had 11 rebounds; Griffith scored 17 and had 13 rebounds.

Vance was the only other Lady Devil to reach double-figure scoring with 10 points. Hendrickson scored 3 (1 3-pointer), Edwards scored 2, Bailey scored 2 and Powers scored 1.

• • •

The Lady Devils traveled to Sullivan East for an important conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

They are scheduled to travel to Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 27, for their second matchup of the season with the Lady Longhorns. The Lady Devils previously defeated Johnson County earlier this month in Erwin.

UCHS returns home to face Sullivan North on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 3. The junior varsity will face Johnson County, North and Elizabethton at 3:30 p.m. each day; the varsity team will face those teams at 6:30 p.m.

The team will also recognize its senior members on Jan. 31.

Blue Devils beat South in final seconds

From Staff Reports

Trevor Hensley takes a shot against Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 20, at UCHS. Hensley’s 3-point play, with 14 seconds left in the game, lifted the Blue Devils to a 56-55 victory. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Trevor Hensley takes a shot against Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 20, at UCHS. Hensley’s 3-point play, with 14 seconds left in the game, lifted the Blue Devils to a 56-55 victory. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

One of the wildest games in Erwin in recent memory was played between the Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team (13-9, 6-1) and Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 20, in Erwin.

Both the Blue Devils and the Rebels were scoreless during the opening minutes of the game. South held a 9-6 lead at the end of the first. Then, things turned ugly for the Blue Devils as South scored 16 unanswered points to take a 25-6 lead.

“We couldn’t get any shots to go in the second quarter,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “When we are playing well, we make shots. When we’re not playing well, we don’t.”

The usually sharp-shooting Blue Devils struggled from beyond the arc all night against South, hitting only 4 of their 20 attempts.

Chase McNabb scored on a reverse layup with around two minutes to play in the half. This started a 6-0 for UCHS as the Blue Devils tried to fight their way back in the game. South scored on a buzzer-beater to take a 27-12 lead into halftime.

At the break, Smith and his players regrouped and changed their game plan.

“In the third quarter we came out in a full-court man press,” Smith said. “We were trapping and trying to make them rush. They missed shots they were making in the first half and I think that is because we sped up the pace of the game.”

The Blue Devils scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter – 9 by Dylan Putman, 6 by Trevor Hensley and 2 by Troy Podvin – to take the lead, 29-27. South took the lead back, 31-28, and the teams battled back and forth the rest of the quarter. UCHS came out on top, leading 38-35 going into the fourth.

It was South’s turn to make a run. The Rebels outscored the Blue Devils 11-2 to lead 46-40 with less than 4 minutes to play in the game. Hensley hit 6 free throws during the next minutes of play, but the Blue Devils found themselves once again down by 6 points, 52-46, with one minute to play; that’s when one of the team’s youngest players hit the biggest shot of his career so far.

Hensley brought the ball across halfcourt and looked for a shot. He was stopped by the Rebel defense and passed the ball to Lingerfelt on the right wing. A South defender made a play on the ball, but Lingerfelt maintained possession, avoided another defender and shot a 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net.

“That was a clutch shot by Brett, “ Smith said. “He’s a good shooter. It was a big-time shot for him.”

The Blue Devils then fouled a Rebel, who made only one of his free throws for a 53-49 lead with 47 seconds to play. Putman then scored for a 53-51 score. The Blue Devils fouled again and South again only hit one free throw for a 54-51 score with 36 seconds to play.

Putman and Hensley both missed 3-pointers on the next possession, but Hensley was able to grab an offensive rebound and score on a layup.

Trailing by one, UCHS fouled South again, and again South managed to hit only one free throw for a 55-53 score with 14 seconds to go. Hensley wouldn’t be stopped by the Rebel defense this time. He drove into the paint, hit a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw and UCHS led 56-55.

“That was a big play,” Smith said of Hensley’s score. “He made a tough shot.”

The Blue Devils kept South from scoring and earned the victory.

Hensley scored 23 points and had 5 assists. Putman scored 11 (1 3-pointer). McNabb scored 10 (2-3 pointers). Podvin scored 9 and had 14 rebounds. Lingerfelt scored 3 (1 3-pointer).

• • •

Despite losing an early double-digit lead, the Blue Devils left Kingsport with a 70-55 victory over Sullivan North on Saturday, Jan. 21.

It was a 3-point shootout more than a game as both teams hit 11 3-pointers in the contest.

“We went up by 19 in the second quarter, then North hit three or 4 threes in a row to get back into it,” Smith said.

UCHS held a 35-27 lead at the break.

“It was a close game the whole third quarter,” Smith said. “We started making shots in the fourth quarter to get our lead back to 20. They scored the last five points of the game.”

Hensley scored 29 (2 3-pointers). Putman scored 15 (3 3-pointers). McNabb scored 15 (5 3-pointers). Brett Strother scored 1 point.

Podvin, who has recently entered the Blue Devil starting lineup, scored 10 (1 3-pointer) and had 20 rebounds. Smith said in three games last week Podvin scored a total of 33 points and grabbed 43 rebounds.

“Troy has come in and done a great job being our main post guy,” Smith said. “He controlled the glass for us in all of our games last week and he has increased his scoring output for us.”

• • •

Last week opened with an easy 81-42 victory over conference rival Happy Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

UCHS was in total control of the game from the start and hit 13 3-pointers en route to the win.

“It was a good win,” Smith said. “It’s always good to get a win over a rival and conference opponent.”

Hensley scored 28 (3 3-pointers) and had 6 steals. Podvin scored 14 (2 3-pointers) and had 9 rebounds. McNabb scored 12 (3 3-pointers). Putman scored 10 (2 3-pointers). Lingerfelt scored 9 (3 3-pointers). Michael Howell scored 4, Strother scored 2 and Ty Thelen scored 2.

• • •

The Blue Devils traveled to Sullivan East for an important conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

They are scheduled to travel to Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 27, for their second matchup of the season with the Longhorns. The Blue Devils previously defeated Johnson County earlier this month in Erwin.

UCHS returns home to face Sullivan North on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 3. The junior varsity will face Johnson County, North and Elizabethton at 5 p.m. each day; the varsity team will face those teams at 8 p.m.

The team will also recognize its senior members on Jan. 31.

Adams, Roberts play for Witten Huddle

UCMS eighth grade football players Colton Roberts, left, and Dylan Adams recently competed for coach Ryan Witten and the Witten Huddle program. (Contributed photo)

UCMS eighth grade football players Colton Roberts, left, and Dylan Adams recently competed for coach Ryan Witten and the Witten Huddle program. (Contributed photo)

From Staff Reports

Two Unicoi County Middle School eighth grade football players were given the opportunity to keep playing on the gridiron after their season ended.

Recently, Jr. Blue a Colton Roberts and Dylan Adams played with other eighth graders from schools in Northeast Tennessee on a Witten Huddle team.

“Our team is composed of our eighth graders who participate in our Witten Huddle development training throughout the offseason,” said Ryan Witten, head coach of Witten Huddle. “We combined approximately 24 eighth graders from different schools who wished to compete in two tournaments in Richlands, Va., and Knoxville. We finished second place in Richlands, the Big Blue Bash, and went 2-2 in the Knoxville tournament, the Battle in Rocky Top.”

Witten said the two Jr. Blue Devils were chosen for his team because of their previous work with the program.

“Witten Huddle has benefited from many opportunities to come to Unicoi and work with many football athletes from all ages including senior quarterback Kendrick Williams,” Witten said. “Colton Roberts and Dylan Adams both were selected because of their commitment to Witten Huddle this past off season.”

Witten said he liked what he saw from the UCMS players.

“Colton Roberts brought a unique competitive nature to our team,” Witten added. “Colton is small in size but with a big heart, is always giving his all. Colton plays hard as he possibly can and is very enjoyable to be around which brings out the best in his teammates

“Dylan Adams is a quiet but smart athlete who brought a toughness to our team. Dylan is quick to learn new skills, new drills and new terminology needed for him to succeed. “Dylan is tall and athletic which allows him to be a real playmaker on the outside.”

The goal of the program is preparing regional football players for high school competition.

“The expectations for all our athletes on the team is to shape them and prepare them so they are fully ready to go once they step on to their high school campus,” Witten added. “We try to teach them the fundamentals and skills needed to succeed at the next level, which for them is high school.

“Witten Huddle allows athletes to overcome their fear through positive teaching in a positive atmosphere. We teach our athletes the fundamentals needed for success in their individual situations. I appreciate the opportunity to work with athletes from Unicoi County and look forward to developing more relationships in the future.”

Erwin native chosen for all-state team

From Staff Reports

An Erwin resident has made a name for himself on the gridiron.

Bryson Tolley, who finished his senior season for the Science Hill football team this fall, has been chosen for the 2016 Tennessee State Sportswriters 6A All-State Football Team. This is the second time Tolley was chosen for this honor; he was also named to the team following the 2015 season.

During the 2016 season, Tolley had 126 tackles for the Hilltoppers. He had 13 tackles for a loss and two quarterback sacks. He forced five fumbles, recovered one for a touchdown and had an interception for a 74-yard touchdown.

The TSWA 6A defensive team also included: Chris Onwumere, Oakland; Ellis Chapman, Hardin Valley; Matt Young, Maryville; Quinton Bohanna, Cordova; T.D. Blackmon, Maryville; Aubrey Miller, Whitehaven; Jackson Cauthen, Oakland; Theo Jackson, Overton; Kaleb Oliver, Oakland; Gentry Bonds, Riverdale; Rayshad Williams, Whitehaven; JaCoby Stevens, Oakland; and Adam Williams, Wilson Central.

The TSWA 6A offensive team included: Cole Copeland, Bradley Central; Dylan Hopkins, Maryville; Kylan Watkins, Whitehaven; Master Teague, Blackman; Lameric Tucker, Bradley Central; Edward Johnson, Cordova; Trey Knox, Blackman; Max Wray, Franklin; D.J. Delfendahl, Mt. Juliet; Elijah Dobbins, Oakland; K’Rojhn Calbert, Warren County; Anthony Geter, Whitehaven; Jordan Ervin, Maryville; and Jacob Smith, Siegel.

Bryson is the son of Chris and Tootie Tolley.

Lady Devils end losing streak

Halie Padgett sees a path to the hoop during the Lady Devils victory over Red Bank last week. (Photo contributed by Melissa Griffith)

Halie Padgett sees a path to the hoop during the Lady Devils victory over Red Bank last week. (Photo contributed by Melissa Griffith)

From Staff Reports

A 11-game losing streak has come to an end for the Unicoi County High School girls varsity basketball team (3-12, 0-2) last week.

The Lady Devils defeated Red Bank on Friday, Dec. 30, in their third and final game of the Cleveland Holiday Classic Powered by Under Armour.

“This whole time we have been trying to push and push and push to get a win,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said. “We have been doing a lot of good things, but to do all that and not get a win can wear on you some. It was a relief more than elation. We have been working hard to get a win. We are a better team than our record shows.”

King said she believes the Lady Devils can still compete for a Three Rivers Conference championship.

“I feel like all of the goals we set for ourselves are attainable,” she added. “We need to keep playing the way we have been playing of late and continue to hold ourselves to a high standard, not just game to game, but minute to minute in each game – that’s the difference for us.”

During the 52-39 victory over Red Bank, King’s Lady Devils used full court pressure to force turnovers, which they converted into easy scores. But, it took a quarter before the Lady Devils got on the roll that gave them the lead for good. Red Bank took control of the game early and held an 11-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“The way the tournament fell, we played late with Cleveland the night before and that was a hard game because we had to press to try to get back into it,” King said. “They were big and physical. I knew if we put pressure on Red Bank we would have a good shot. After that late game, we had to turn around and play Red Bank early the next day. I don’t think we were just flat, we just didn’t have our legs early in the game.”

When they were needed players off the Lady Devils’ bench came in and really contributed to the game, according to the head coach.

“If we hadn’t have had our bench play from Kaitlin Bailey, Ashtan Vance and Allee Griffith, I don’t think we would have had enough depth to put enough pressure on Red Bank to make a difference in the game,” she added. “Our bench play for sure gave us a lift.”

During the second quarter, UCHS went on a solid run, outscoring Red Bank 20-7 to take a 27-18 lead into halftime. Red Bank never really threatened to get back into the game in the second half and UCHS left with the victory.

The Lady Devils had one of their better shooting performances of the season from 2-point range against Red Bank – hitting 47 percent of their shots.

Halie Padgett scored 13 points and had 9 rebounds. Neelee Griffith scored 12 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists. Ashtan Vance scored 8, Kaylee Hendrickson scored 6 (2 3-pointers), Kaitlin Bailey and Allee Griffith scored 4 points each and Ashley Edwards scored 3 (1 3-pointer).

• • •

After a solid first half performance against a solid Cleveland High School team, a tough third quarter proved too much for the Lady Devils to overcome on Thursday, Dec. 29.

“In both the game against Cleveland and the game against Warren County we did not have trouble playing well early and taking a lead,” King said. “We are not a team of runs, we are a team that builds and builds a lead over the course of a game. The commonality between the losses to Cleveland and Warren County last week, and our other losses, is that we don’t understand that basketball is a game of runs and just because that is not how we play when somebody else has a run, we have a hard time stopping the run because we don’t maintain the level of play we had to get the lead. We panic and it takes forever for us to get back into the groove.”

The Lady Devils dominated the host team in the first half of the Dec. 29 game, leading 15-6 after the first and 25-12 at halftime.

“We were playing great early against a great team,” King said.

Things fell apart for UCHS when Cleveland started making a run in the third quarter.

“As much as we told the players they would make a run we still didn’t adjust,” King said. “We went into a panic. We have done that a lot. We can play with people, we can build a lead, we can go back and forth, possession for possession with people, but when somebody makes a run on us it is very hard for us to get our confidence back.”

The Lady Devils fought back to tie the game at 46 with less than 5 seconds to play; however, a 3-pointer by Cleveland after a scramble for the ball put the game out of reach for UCHS and the home team held on for a 49-46 victory.

Kenedy King led the Lady Devils in scoring against Cleveland with 12 points (2 3-pointers). Padget scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds. Bailey scored 9. N. Griffith scored 7 and had 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Edwards scored 7 (1 3-pointer) and A. Griffith scored 1.

• • •

The Lady Devils saw a 27-20 halftime lead become a 40-30 deficit against Warren County on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

“We didn’t have a good first four minutes of the game,” King said, “but we had a good first half.”

Warren County outscored UCHS 20-3 in the third quarter to take control of the game. Despite outscoring their opponent in the fourth quarter, the Lady Devils couldn’t get the victory and fell 52-48.

Hendrickson scored 13 (3 3-pointers) to lead the Lady Devils against Warren County. Padgett scored 12. N. Griffith scored 9 points to go along with 14 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists. Bailey scored 8, Edwards scored 3 and King scored 3 (1 3-pointer).

• • •

UCHS returned to Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 3, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They faced the Johnson County Longhorns at the Devils’ Den in Erwin.

Next up, they will travel to Sullivan North for a conference game with the Golden Raiders on Friday, Jan. 6. The Lady Devils will travel to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for another conference game and to Cloudland on Saturday, Jan. 14, for non-conference action.

Varsity action is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. each evening. The junior varsity team will play at 3:30 p.m. each evening.

Devils drop 3 games in Knox Bearden tournament

From Staff Reports

For the Unicoi County High School boys basketball team (8-7, 1-1), the road to the state tournament has taken them through Knoxville where the Blue Devils have run into roadblock after roadblock. In recent years, they have seen seasons come to an end in the substate round of the playoffs – one game away from the state tournament – at the hands of such teams as Knox Fulton and Austin East.

Knowing his team could face Knoxville-based competition come postseason time, head coach Michael Smith entered them into the Super 16 Tournament played at Knox Bearden last week.

“We could have played in a tournament with a lower level of competition,” Smith said, “but, I like playing somewhere in Knoxville just to get to play teams with that much athleticism. Those are the teams we have to get through to make it to state. We have struggled with playing the athletes from Knoxville.”

Things didn’t go as well for his team as Smith had hoped, as the Blue Devils lost all three games they played in the tournament.

“We have to use the experience gained from the tournament to help us in our conference games,” Smith said. “I think we will be able to do that.”

The Blue Devils opened the tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 28, against Knox Powell and found themselves trailing 11-0 in the early minutes of the game.

“We got some good looks and missed some shots,” Smith said, “but that doesn’t excuse allowing one player to hit three wide open 3-pointers and to score a layup in transition.”

UCHS wasn’t going to go down without a fight, though. Dylan Putman and Troy Podvin scored 5 points each in the quarter, Clay Simpson scored 4 and Trevor Hensley scored 2 as the Blue Devil defense played better to cut Powell’s lead to 20-16 at the end of the opening frame.

UCHS outscored Powell 14-11 in the second quarter to cut the lead to 1, 31-30 at the half. Trailing 31-21 with minutes to play in the first half, the Blue Devils went on a 9-0 run to close the second quarter.

“We started making shots we had missed early in the game,” Smith said of the run.

Powell’s Jack Richards took over the game in the third quarter, scoring 12 points, including his own 8-0 run to give his team a 39-30 lead. UCHS trailed 50-44 at the end of the third.

“We came out in the fourth quarter and played well,” Smith said. “We didn’t take the lead until there were a few minutes left to play when we took a 60-59 lead. Trevor scored with just over a minute to play on an inbounds play to give us a 62-59 lead.”

That would be the final Blue Devil points of the game, as Powell went on an 8-0 in the final minute to earn the 67-62 victory.

Dylan Putman led the Blue Devils in scoring with 19 points (3 3-pointers). Trevor Hensley scored 16 points (2 3-pointers) and had 8 assists and 6 steals. Clay Simpson had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Troy Podvin scored 7 points (1 3-pointer). Jacob Smith scored 7 and had 5 rebounds.

• • •

The Blue Devils got off to another slow start when they played Knox West on Thursday, Dec. 29, and found themselves facing a 10-2 deficit at the end of the first quarter. Once again, the Blue Devils fought their way back into the game to tie it at 27 during the third quarter.

From there, West went on a 27-13 run to win 54-40.

“I think their pressure and us fighting so hard to get back in it wore us down some,” Smith said.

Hensley scored 12 points to go along with 5 assists and 5 steals. Putman scored 11 (2 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds. Simpson scored 7, Podvin scored 4, Chase McNabb scored 3 (1 3-pointer), Austin O’Dell scored 2 points and Michael Howell scored 1.

• • •

In their final game of the tournament the Blue Devils faced Knox Carter on Friday, Dec. 30.

“We started strong against Carter, taking a 5-0 lead,” Smith said. “It ended up being a back-and-forth game the rest of the way. We would make plays and take a lead, then they would make plays and take the lead back.”

The Blue Devils held a 9 point lead with around 2 minutes to play. Following a score to cut the lead to 7, Carter’s coach called a timeout in order to set up full court pressure by his team.

“They started pressing and we turned it over,” Smith said. “We also missed some free throws that could have put the game away for us in the fourth quarter.”

The teams ended regulation tied at 66.

Carter continued its run in overtime, outscoring the Blue Devils 15-7 to win 81-73.

“Their pressure took us out of our rhythm in the fourth quarter and that carried over into overtime,” Smith said.

Hensley scored 35 points (4 3-pointers) to lead all scorers against Carter; he also had 6 assists. Putman scored 19 (2 3-pointers) and had 5 assists. Simpson scored 9 points to go along with 7 rebounds. McNabb scored 8 (1 3-pointer) and had 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Podvin scored 2.

• • •

UCHS returned to Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 3, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They faced the Johnson County Longhorns at the Devils’ Den in Erwin.

Next up, they will travel to Sullivan North for a conference game with the Golden Raiders on Friday, Jan. 6. The Blue Devils will travel to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for another conference game. They will host David Crockett on Friday, Jan. 13, and travel to Cloudland on Saturday, Jan. 14. Varsity action is scheduled for 8 p.m. each evening. The junior varsity team will play at 5 p.m. each evening, except against Crockett when they are scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m.

Devils take Hilltoppers to OT

From Staff Reports

Gavin Casey takes aim at a jump shot against Science Hill. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Gavin Casey takes aim at a jump shot against Science Hill. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team (8-4, 1-1) found themselves down by as many as 16 points in the first half against Science Hill, but bounced back to force overtime on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

“We could have let ourselves get beat by 20,” head coach Michael Smith said. “Instead, we really fought hard, got some defensive stops and made some baskets to get back in the game.”

The two teams faced off on Nov. 29 in Johnson City with the Hilltoppers taking control of the game in the second half on their way to a 62-55 victory.

After falling behind 7-2 in the first quarter of the Dec. 13 contest, baskets by Clay Simpson, Dylan Putman and Trevor Hensley gave UCHS a 10-8 lead – their final one until the opening seconds of overtime.

From there, Science Hill used its defensive pressure to force the Blue Devils into turnovers, which the Hilltoppers then converted to baskets. Science Hill led 13-10 at the end of the first quarter, but expanded that lead to 12 points, 22-10, in the opening minutes of the second frame. Smith called a timeout to slow the run, but this was unsuccessful as the Hilltoppers kept forcing turnovers and converting those into points, eventually taking a 34-18 lead.

“We didn’t take care of the ball in the first half and that allowed them to get out to that big lead,” Smith said. “Turnovers really hurt us and we missed some open shots that we should have made. Science Hill did a good job rebounding and limiting us to one shot.”

The Blue Devils were able to get the deficit to a more manageable 12 points, 36-24, at the half.

“We challenged our players to get after it in the second half,” Smith said, “and they did.”

UCHS began chipping away at the Hilltoppers’ lead in the third quarter. Simpson hit two free throws and Chase McNabb hit a 3-pointer to start the Blue Devils on a 5-2 run to cut the lead to single digits, 38-29. Science Hill responded with a run of their own to get the lead back to 15 points, 44-29.

Again, the Blue Devils wouldn’t go away and they closed the quarter on a 10-3 run on 6 points by Hensley and 4 by Jacob Smith. Science Hill held a 47-39 lead at the end of the third.

“Our guys knew they had to stop allowing the other team do what they wanted to do if we were going to take the lead,” Smith said. “We came out in the fourth and did a lot of good things. We made some shots we had been missing and did a much better job taking care of the ball.”

Hensley and Smith again led UCHS on another run in the fourth, this time an 8-0 run, to tie the game at 47 with just under 5 minutes to play.

The teams traded turnovers on their next possessions before Science Hill’s Nate Jackson scored with under 3 minutes to play to give his team the lead again. This lead didn’t last long, as Putman tied the game with 2 minutes to play.

Neither the Blue Devils nor the Hilltoppers got on the scoreboard again in regulation and the game went to overtime.

Smith grabbed an offensive rebound in the extra frame and scored to put UCHS ahead 51-49. Science Hill responded with a score to tie the game, then a Blue Devil turnover led to a 3-pointer for Science Hill and gave the Hilltoppers a 54-51 lead.

Simpson hit 3-for-4 from the free throw line to tie the game at 54, but the Hilltoppers responded again to take a 56-54 lead with 1 minute to play. Trailing 57-55 with 12 seconds to play, Hensley rebounded a missed free throw and drove the length of the floor and down the left side of the paint for a layup attempt that was blocked by Bowden Lyon. Science Hill then hit two free throws to win the game 59-55.

“Bowden made a great play at the end,” Smith said. “Both teams had players make plays when they needed to throughout the game.”

Hensley scored 13 points to go along with 4 assists and 4 steals. Simpson scored 11 and had 8 rebounds. Putman scored 10. Smith scored 9 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Troy Podvin scored 7 and had 6 rebounds. McNabb scored 5 (1 3-pointer) and had 4 rebounds.

• • •

The Blue Devils return to action today (Wednesday, Dec. 28), when they face Knox Powell at 1 p.m. in the Super 16 Tournament being played at Knox Bearden High School. They will also play in the tournament on Dec. 29 and 30; game times will depend on the results of the previous games.

UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County. They will travel to Sullivan North on Friday, Jan. 6, and to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 10. All Blue Devil varsity games are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.; the junior varsity will play at 5 p.m. on those days.

Coach: Ladies making progress

Halie Padgett goes up for a contested shot against Science Hill. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Halie Padgett goes up for a contested shot against Science Hill. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

What a difference a few weeks can make.

After defeating the Lady Devil basketball team (2-10, 0-2) 55-34 in Johnson City on Nov. 29, the Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers found themselves in a battle when they visited Unicoi County on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

“We showed a much-improved level of maturity and confidence against Science Hill in the second game,” head coach Kerri King said. “The difference between when we played them the first time to now shows that we are making progress and we are getting to where we want to be.”

The Lady Hilltoppers took an early 5-0 lead, but the Lady Devils survived the slow start and soon found their groove offensively, closing the quarter on a 12-7 run for a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter. Ashley Edwards scored 5, Chloe Powers scored 1, Kenedy King scored 3 and Halie Padgett scored 3 for the Lady Devils in the frame.

“I don’t think getting down early in the game is a reflection of how we are going to play,” King said. “Our girls have patience and resilience and stick to what we want to do as the game goes along.”

UCHS continued the balance offense attack in the second quarter, with Padgett, Powers and King all contributing points to give the Lady Devils a 24-18 lead with 2 minutes to play in the first half.

“On any given night we can have post game scoring and outside scoring,” King said. “We have balanced scoring. We just need to find consistency and find what we can rely on all the time.”

However, the Lady Hilltoppers didn’t go quietly into the break as they outscored UCHS 7-2 to close the second quarter. UCHS led 26-25 at the half.

The teams exchanged baskets during the third quarter, with the Lady Hilltoppers taking a 43-42 lead at the end of the frame.

“I don’t think we have come out in a third quarter and taken it to the other team,” King said. “We have had letdowns coming out of halftime, but we didn’t against Science Hill, even when our lineup was a little unorthodox because of foul trouble in the third quarter.”

King praised the Lady Devil guards for handling Science Hill’s pressure during the third and throughout the game, which was an improvement from the first time the teams played.

“We had more than 20 turnovers when we played at Science Hill,” King said. “We only had 13 last week. So, we limited our turnovers and did a great job of handling their pressure. That is a huge improvement. All of our guards stepped up.”

The Lady Devils stayed within striking distance during much of the fourth quarter, trailing 48-47 with 4 minutes to play before Science Hill took a decisive 5-point lead, 54-49, with 3 minutes to play.

Following a timeout by their head coach the Lady Devils had two good looks at the goal, but couldn’t convert on those possessions. The Lady Hilltoppers then scored in transition to take a 56-49 lead.

“Because of their size and depth, we were still battling, but late in the game we had two possessions on defense where we had letdowns,” King said. “Because we were tired we had mental lapses there and they got scores and we didn’t. I felt like that was the difference in the game. But, overall, I thought it was our best total effort.”

King then answered with a 3-pointer, but Science Hill’s players hit their free throws late in the game to leave Erwin with a 61-54 victory.

Key to the Lady Devils’ performance against Science Hill was the play from the bench.

“We had really productive minutes from players off our bench, particularly from our freshmen,” King said. “That is huge for us and it is something we need to have each game.”

Padget scored 19 points and had 7 rebounds to lead UCHS.

“Halie was solid against Science Hill,” King said. “We need that kind of effort out of her like that all the time.”

King scored 9 (2 3-pointers) and had 7 rebounds. Powers also scored 9 (2 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds. Edwards scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) and had 5 rebounds. Kaitlin Bailey scored 6, Neelee Griffith scored 4 and Ashtan Vance scored 2.

• • •

The Lady Devils will participate in the Cleveland Holiday Classic Powered by Under Armour at Cleveland High School beginning today (Wednesday, Dec. 28) when they face Warren County at noon. The Lady Devils will play Cleveland at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 and Red Bank at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30.

UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County. They will travel to Sullivan North on Friday, Jan. 6, and to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 10. All Lady Devil varsity games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.; the junior varsity will play at 3:30 p.m. on those days.

Devils bounce back from East loss to defeat Hampton

Jacob Smith takes a shot against Hampton on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Jacob Smith takes a shot against Hampton on Saturday, Dec. 10. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

In close games a few bad minutes of play can be the difference between winning and losing.

The Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team (8-3, 1-1) learned this lesson the hard way last week.

Facing Three Rivers Conference rival the Sullivan East Patriots on Friday, Dec. 9, the Blue Devils saw a 23-22 lead turn into a 31-25 deficit in the final 2 minutes of the first half.

“We had a couple turnovers against their press and gave them 4 easy points that really fueled their 9-2 run in the last 2 minutes of the half,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said.

The Blue Devils got off to a quick start to open the game against the visiting Patriots, taking a 10-2 lead, in the opening minutes. A timeout by East coach John Dyer helped stop the run by UCHS and refocused his team.

“They started making shots after that timeout that they weren’t making early in the game,” Smith said. “They upped their intensity and level of play as well. When they did that we didn’t step up and match that intensity.”

The combination of East’s improved shooting and turnovers by the Blue Devils led to the Patriots’ first half run.

In the second half, the teams played even basketball.

“It wasn’t a bad half by either team,” Smith said. “It was a well-played half. Unfortunately, in the second quarter we had put ourselves in a hole we couldn’t climb out of.”

The Blue Devils cut 2 points off East’s lead in the third quarter and trailed 42-38 going into the final quarter.

Both teams scored 14 points in the fourth quarter with UCHS cutting the lead to 2 points, 50-48, with less than 2 minutes to play; however, East went 10-17 from the free throw line in the frame to seal the 56-52 win.

Dylan Putman led the Blue Devils with 17 points (3 3-pointers). Trevor Hensley scored 14 (2 3-pointers and had 4 assists. Clay Simpson scored 9 points and had 4 rebounds. Jacob Smith scored 5 with 7 rebounds. Troy Podvin scored 4 and had 10 rebounds. Chase McNabb scored 3 (1 3-pointer) and had 4 rebounds.

• • •

“We knew it would be a tough game,” Smith said of facing the Hampton Bulldogs for the second time this season. “They are a well-coached team and very talented.”

The Blue Devils welcomed the Bulldogs to Erwin on Saturday, Dec. 10. They had defeated Hampton in the opening round of the Hardee’s Classic last month.

The Bulldogs came out of the gate with revenge on their minds, taking a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We weren’t making shots,” Smith said. “We had some good looks, but missed them. Hampton did a good job of finding Wyatt Lyons in that quarter.”

Lyons outscored the Blue Devils in the first quarter, posting 6 points for his team.

The second quarter was a different story. The UCHS offense started rolling, thanks to 6 points from McNabb and 5 from Podvin as the team outscored Hampton by 10 points.

“Throughout the season both of those guys have scored important points for us,” Smith said of McNabb and Podvin.

The Blue Devils held a 22-16 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was a back-and-forth battle, as Lyons scored 7 points to pace the Bulldogs.

“Again, they did a good job getting the ball where he could score and he did a good job,” Smith said.

It was Hensley and Smith’s turn to lead the UCHS offense in this quarter, as they scored 7 and 4 points respectively. The Blue Devils took a 33-28 lead into the fourth.

Hampton kept the game close in the first part of the fourth quarter before the Blue Devils went on a run thanks to 3 3-pointers – 2 by Putman and 1 by Hensley – to take a 44-34 lead with just over 3 minutes to play. The Blue Devils scored 16 points in the fourth – 9 by Putman and 7 by Hensley.

“We made some big shots in the fourth,” Smith said. “We also made Hampton take some tough shots by being active in our zone defense.”

Hensley led UCHS in scoring with 18 points (1 3-pointer) and 4 assists. Putman scored 11 (2 3-pointers). McNabb scored 6 (2 3-pointers) and had 5 rebounds. Simpson had 5 points and 6 rebounds. Podvin had 5 points and 10 rebounds. Smith had 4 points and 7 rebounds.

“After losing a conference game on Friday, we did a good job of bouncing back to get a win on Saturday against a good Hampton team,” Smith said. “I am proud of our effort to come back the day after a tough conference loss and get a good win.”

• • •

The Blue Devils looked to avenge an earlier loss to Science Hill in Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

The team will return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 28, when they face Knox Powell at 1 p.m. in the Super 16 Tournament being played at Knox Bearden High School. They will play on Dec. 29 and 30; game times will depend on the results of the previous games.

The Blue Devils return to the Devils’ Den and conference play on Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County.

Ladies continue working to improve

Lady Devil Chloe Powers fights for possession of the ball against Sullivan East on Friday, Dec. 9, at the Devils’ Den in Erwin. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Lady Devil Chloe Powers fights for possession of the ball against Sullivan East on Friday, Dec. 9, at the Devils’ Den in Erwin. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School girls varsity basketball team (2-9, 0-2) was still looking for its first win since Nov. 19 as of The Erwin Record’s press deadline for the Dec. 14 issue.

As has been the case with the ladies since they defeated Cherokee in Erwin last month, they found themselves on the losing end of two games in which they had gone toe-to-toe with their opponents.

“We have cleaned up different aspects of our game along the way,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said in an interview with The Erwin Record. “We haven’t been mature enough or focused enough to put together a full game in every aspect. Early in the season we were giving other teams – because of lack of focus and lack of effort defensively – too many free throws.

“We worked on our defense and are playing better defense in our last several games. Now, we are missing easy shots in multiple games. I still don’t feel we have played a complete game yet. But, I do believe it will come together for us. We are staying positive and are continuing to work hard.”

King said she believes her team can bounce back from the adversity of the first part of the season.

“If you had asked me if I wanted this messy of a record in order to give our players adversity and make them grow up, obviously I would have said no,” King said. “This is beyond what I would want to make a team more seasoned. The only reason this could affect us in a negative way is if we come through it and don’t think we are a good team. We don’t feel like that. We know we can still meet the goals we set for ourselves.

“If we were down as a team because of our record, I would be worried. But, I’m not because the girls are staying positive and working hard. At some point we have to turn the corner and play the way we are capable of playing and we will.”

The Lady Devils welcomed Three Rivers Conference foe Sullivan East to Erwin on Friday, Dec. 9, and saw a second quarter 10-point lead slip out of their fingers as they fell to the Lady Patriots, 50-45.

A balanced offensive attack and good defensive effort propelled UCHS to a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter against East. Neelee Griffith, Kaylee Hendrickson, Chloe Powers, Ashley Edwards and Halie Padgett all contributed points for the team in the opening quarter.

UCHS led 20-14 with 3 minutes to play in the first half and maintained a 4-point lead, 24-20, at halftime.

“We had multiple possessions where we turned the ball over,” King said of what helped East make a run to chip away at the lead.

East’s offense started rolling in the third quarter, scoring 18 points and overtaking UCHS to hold a 38-34 lead going into the final eight minutes.

“We opened the third quarter by not getting a stop on defense and allowed them to score, then we turned the ball over and they scored,” King said. “This allowed them to go on a run, get momentum and take the lead.”

The Lady Devils closed the gap to 1 point, 46-45, thanks to three 3-pointers by Hendrickson in the fourth quarter; however, the Lady Patriots hit enough free throws to win the game 50-45.

“Even though we lost the lead we still get scrapping to stay in the game,” King said. “We did a good job late in the game running sets and finding shooters. We did a good job of finding Kaylee in the fourth quarter.”

Despite being 0-2 in the conference after losing to East and to Sullivan South on Dec. 2, King said her team remains intent on finishing in the top half of the standings.

“The team has had conversations about how it is important to finish in the top half of the conference,” she added. “We still have our minds set on doing that; it is doable for us and we are not giving up on that.”

Hendrickson paced the Lady Devils with 16 points (4 3-pointers) and 3 assists. Padgett scored 12 points to go along with 5 rebounds. Powers scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) and had 6 rebounds. Edwards and Griffith had 4 points and 8 rebounds each. Kenedy King and Kaitlin Bailey had 2 points and 4 rebounds each.

• • •

On a night when the team struggled shooting the ball, no Lady Devils reached double figures as the team lost to Hampton, 46-33, for the second time this season.

According to King, the Lady Devils were 1-19 from the field and 3-10 from three-point land in the first half against Hampton. The rough first half for the ladies resulted in the Lady Bulldogs taking a 18-point lead, 31-13, into halftime.

“For the past several games we had been playing good defense and we didn’t do that at the start of the game against Hampton,” King said.

The Lady Devils weren’t going to go down without a fight, though. They came out and got after the Lady Bulldogs on the defensive end of the floor in the third quarter, cutting the lead to single digits at one point; however, missing shots in the paint again kept UCHS from catching up to Hampton.

“Our defense was able to force turnovers and get stops in the third quarter and that helped us cut into their lead,” King said.

The Lady Devils kept battling in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t regain the lead as Hampton won the game.

Powers paced UCHS with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Edwards also scored 7 points (1 3-pointer) in the game. King scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Hendrickson scored 5 (1 3-pointer) with 4 rebounds. Padgett scored 4 points and had 5 rebounds. Griffith scored 3 points (1 3-pointer) with 5 rebounds. Allee Griffith scored 2 points.

• • •

The Lady Devils faced Science Hill in Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They will not return to the court until after Christmas. They will participate in the Cleveland Holiday Classic Powered by Under Armour at Cleveland High School beginning Wednesday, Dec. 28. On that day, they will face Warren County at noon.

The Lady Devils will play Cleveland at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 and Red Bank at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30.

UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play on Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County.

Higgins signs with Milligan

By Keeli Parkey

Another standout Unicoi County High School athlete will have the opportunity to com

Cameron Higgins, seated center, will join the Milligan College track and field program following graduation from UCHS. Joining Higgins during a signing ceremony last week were his parents, Tim and Penney Higgins, brother Thad Higgins, track coach Megan Davis, friends and teammates. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Cameron Higgins, seated center, will join the Milligan College track and field program following graduation from UCHS. Joining Higgins during a signing ceremony last week were his parents, Tim and Penney Higgins, brother Thad Higgins, track coach Megan Davis, friends and teammates. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

pete at the collegiate level.

Cameron Higgins, known for his performances on both the football and track fields, officially signed with the Milligan College track program during a ceremony held at UCHS on Thursday, Dec. 8. Higgins was recruited to compete in the hammer throw and discus events.

“I always wanted to go to Milligan,” Higgins said last week. “I definitely wanted to be a Buff. My focus was to be at Milligan and track was my way of being there.”

Higgins also said he was looking forward to getting to compete for the Buffaloes.

“I will work by butt off for it and give 100 percent,” he added. “I want to be the best that I can.”

Before he begins his collegiate career though, Higgins still has one more track season at UCHS and he is looking forward to it.

“I have personal goals that I definitely want to meet,” he added. “I want to do the best I can.”

Megan Davis, head track coach at UCHS, fully expects Higgins to meet his goals during the 2017 season.

“Cameron brings leadership to our program,” Davis said. “He is a versatile athlete who loves to compete. His focus is mainly on throwing, but I can put him in running events if we need him and he does his very best.”

Davis said Higgins advanced to the sectional meet during his sophomore and junior years and that she expects he will go further this season.

“He should qualify for state,” she said.

Davis also said she believes Higgins has a bright future ahead of him at the collegiate level.

“Milligan is a great fit for him,” she added.

Higgins said he plans to major in pre-med while at Milligan. He is the son of Tim and Penney Higgins.

Milligan’s men’s track program is coached by Chris Layne. According to Milligan’s website, in his 17 seasons at the school, during which he has also coached the cross country team, Milligan athletes have earned more than 300 national championship qualifiers. Athletes have also earned 62 All-American honors and 20 top-25 National Championship finishes.

Blue Devils win conference opener

Dylan Putman fights for a loose ball with a Sullivan South player last week. Putman scored 15 points in the 55-48 victory. Last week saw the Blue Devils fall to Science Hill and defeat South before beating Cloudland on Monday, Dec. 5. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Dylan Putman fights for a loose ball with a Sullivan South player last week. Putman scored 15 points in the 55-48 victory. Last week saw the Blue Devils fall to Science Hill and defeat South before beating Cloudland on Monday, Dec. 5. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team survived a subpar first half effort to win its Three Rivers Conference opener last week.

Playing at Sullivan South, the Blue Devils (7-2, 1-0) found themselves down by 8 points, 29-21.

“We didn’t play hard early against South,” head coach Michael Smith said. “We let them do whatever they wanted to do. We weren’t active defensively at all in the first half.”

The lack of defensive intensity by the Blue Devils helped the Rebels shoot 50 percent from 3-point range (6-for-12) in the first half.

“I think we just came into that game – and you can’t do this – thinking by just showing up we were going to win and that they weren’t good enough to beat us,” Smith also said. “You do that to anybody, they are going to have a chance to beat you. South came in and had a lot of energy and played well and fully expected to beat us.”

At the break, the Blue Devils adjusted their attitudes and their defense, switching to man-to-man for the second half, according to Smith.

“We started to cover their shooters better and we were much more active, both offensively and defensively,” Smith said of his team’s second half performance.

UCHS started the third quarter on a 5-0, cutting the lead to 3 points, 29-26, within the first 2 minutes. Baskets by Dylan Putman, Jacob Smith and two by Chase McNabb put the Blue Devils up 34-33, a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game. Putman scored 6 points during the final 2 minutes of the quarter and the Devils held a 42-36 lead going into the last quarter.

Putman opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, followed by a 2-pointer by Trevor Hensley, giving UCHS a double-digit lead, 47-37. The lead reached 13 points, but two 3-pointers by South late in the fourth helped cut the Blue Devil lead to single digits; however, Smith’s team managed to hold on for the 55-48 victory.

Hensley scored 24 points (2 3-pointers) with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Putman scored 15 points (1 3-pointer). McNabb and Clay Simpson each scored 6. Michael Howell scored 2 points. Jacob Smith scored 2 points and had 10 rebounds.

• • •

A run in the third quarter by the Science Hill Hilltoppers propelled them to a 62-55 victory over UCHS in Johnson City on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

“I felt like we played pretty well overall against Science Hill,” Smith said. “We came ready to play. We knew they are a good team.”

The first half was a close one between the teams, with UCHS taking a 17-16 lead after the first 8 minutes, thanks, in part, to 7 points by Putman and 6 by Clay Simpson. The Hilltoppers outscored the Blue Devils by 2 points in the second quarter to take a 35-34 lead into halftime.

Unfortunately for UCHS, they found themselves unable to keep up with the Hilltoppers during a brief stretch in the third quarter.

“I felt like their athletes and their depth wore us down,” Smith said. “We got tired in the second half and they were able to make a run and take a solid lead.”

Science Hill’s lead reached double digits in the third quarter, but the Blue Devils were able to cut it back to single digits, 51-44, by the end of the frame.

Smith’s crew didn’t go down without a fight. The Blue Devils went on a 7-2 run in the final quarter, cutting the lead to 2 points, 53-51, with around 2 minutes to play.

“There wasn’t much scoring late in the game,” Smith said. “It was a defensive battle.

“When we made our run to get back into the game, it was just too much. It took a lot of effort to get there. We did a lot of good things during that time and played better defense in that stretch. … We had chances to take the lead during the fourth, but they played good defense. We cut the lead to 2 points, then they get a basket to put the lead back to 5 points. They did what they had to do to win.”

Putman led the Blue Devils in scoring with 17 points (1 3-pointer); he also had 5 assists. Simpson scored 13 points (2 3 pointers) and had 9 rebounds. Smith scored 7 and had 9 rebounds. Troy Podvin scored 7 (2 3-pointers). Hensley scored 6 and had 7 assists. Howell scored 3 (1 3-pointer).

• • •

The Blue Devils opened this week with a 56-46 victory over a pesky Cloudland Highlander team on Monday, Dec. 5, in Erwin.

UCHS took a commanding lead early in the game, leading 21-7 at the end of the first quarter and a 29-17 lead into halftime. The third quarter saw the Blue Devils’ lead reach 17 points, 34-17, before the Highlanders went on a run to cut the lead to 3 points. However, the Blue Devils managed to hold onto the lead for the final margin of victory.

Hensley scored 19 points with 6 assists and 4 steals.

Putman scored 14 (3 3-pointers) and grabbed 5 rebounds. Smith scored 10 and had 8 rebounds. Simpson scored 6 with 6 rebounds. Podvin scored 6.

• • •

UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play against the rival Sullivan East Patriots on Friday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m. in Erwin.

“It’s a huge game,” Smith said of the upcoming contest with the Patriots. “East won the league last year. I don’t think we will take them lightly. They will come ready to play, for sure. Coach (John) Dyer does a great job with his team. It should be a good battle.”

The Blue Devils will face Hampton on Saturday, Dec. 10, also in Erwin at 8 p.m. UCHS defeated Hampton, 57-48, in the Hardee’s Classic on Nov. 22.

UCHS will have a chance to avenge the loss to Science Hill when the Hilltoppers come to Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13; tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.

South bests Lady Devil in first conference game

Chloe Powers passes to a teammate against Sullivan South. She scored 4 points in the game. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Chloe Powers passes to a teammate against Sullivan South. She scored 4 points in the game. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

Head coach Kerri King and her Unicoi County High School girls basketball team (2-7, 0-1) knew going into the season that the Three Rivers Conference would be more competitive than in recent years, with several teams expected to contend for the top spots in the league.

“There is a lot of parity in the conference,” head coach Kerri King told The Erwin Record. “That is a good thing, but it also means you have to be on your toes ready to play night in and night out. We didn’t open up the conference season ready to play.”

The Lady Devils saw this first hand when they traveled to Sullivan South on Friday, Dec. 2, to face the Lady Rebels in their first conference game of the year. UCHS got off to a pretty solid start in the contest, taking a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. South began to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, but the Lady Devils managed to take a 6-point lead, 26-20, into the break, thanks to Kenedy King’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.

Just as it has many games throughout the season, foul trouble again plagued the Lady Devils against Sullivan South. In addition to having several players forced to the sidelines due to personal foul trouble, the many fouls called on the ladies sent the Lady Rebels to the free throw line 38 times during the game – 25 of those coming in the second half. South hit 29-38 free throw attempts in the game. In comparison, the Lady Devils shot 6-17 from the line.

“You can’t spot a team 23 points from the free throw line and expect to win,” King said. “That’s not necessarily an officiating thing, that’s a lack of effort on defense that leads to picking up fouls.”

The Lady Rebels outscored the Lady Devils by 10 in the third quarter to take a 37-33 lead into the final frame of play. South’s lead reached 7 points, 46-39, with approximately 5 minutes to play in the game; however, the Lady Devils would not go quietly, cutting the lead to 2 points, 49-47 with around 2 minutes to play.

South’s free throw opportunities proved to be too much for UCHS as the Lady Rebels held on for a 59-49 win.

Kenedy King led the Lady Devils in scoring with 13 points (3 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds.

Ashley Edwards scored 9 (2 3-pointers) with 3 rebounds. Neelee Griffith, Kaylee Hendrickson (2 3-pointers) and Halie Padgett scored 6 points each. Griffith had 9 rebounds and Padgett had 5. Hendrickson had 4 assists. Chloe Powers had 4 points to go along with 4 assists. Kaitlin Bailey and Rachel Lynch scored 2 points each.

• • •

Despite a solid defensive effort, the Lady Devils fell to Cloudland, 41-36, on Monday, Dec. 5, in Erwin.

Griffith scored 17, Powers scored 7 (1 3-pointer), Hendrickson scored 6 and Padgett and King scored 3 points  each.

• • •

A run late in the second quarter put the Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers in control of the game for good when UCHS traveled to Johnson City on Tuesday, Nov. 29.

“When we were fresh we went toe-to-toe with them,” King said, “but they are so deep and big and quick. Our rotation of people is a lot slimmer than theirs, so once we got tired we couldn’t keep mental focus. The last 52 seconds before the half we went from down 4 points to down 10 and we never recovered.”

The Lady Devils couldn’t mount a comeback in the second half as Science Hill won the game, 55-34.

Padgett led the ladies in scoring with 8 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Griffith scored 7 points (1 3-pointer), had 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Powers scored 6 points and had 6 rebounds. Lynch scored 4 points. Hendrickson, Kaylia Street and Edwards each hit one 3-pointer.

• • •

The Lady Devils will get a chance to avenge three previous losses in the coming days.

First, they will face Sullivan East – this time with conference standings on the line. The Lady Patriots will travel to Erwin to face UCHS on Friday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m. Sullivan East beat UCHS, 63-51, on Nov. 23.

The Lady Devils will get another chance at the Hampton Lady Bulldogs on Saturday, Dec. 10, in Erwin at 6:30 p.m. Hampton defeated UCHS, 62-56, on Nov. 25.

Lastly, Science Hill is scheduled to come to Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, with tipoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

UCHS wins Hardee’s Classic for fifth time

The UCHS Blue Devil basketball team, pictured during a trophy presentation, won the Hardee’s Classic for the first time since 2013 with its 78-61 victory over Morristown East on Saturday, Nov. 26, at David Crockett High School.  (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The UCHS Blue Devil basketball team, pictured during a trophy presentation, won the Hardee’s Classic for the first time since 2013 with its 78-61 victory over Morristown East on Saturday, Nov. 26, at David Crockett High School. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

rom Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School varsity boys basketball team won the Hardee’s Classic for the fifth time in the tournament’s history with a 78-61 victory over Morristown East on Saturday, Nov. 26.

“I am very proud of our guys for their play throughout the tournament and for winning it,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith told The Erwin Record. “We take pride in going down there and having a good showing.”

The championship ties the Blue Devils with David Crockett, the tournament’s host team, with the most Hardee’s titles in the event’s history. It is the first Hardee’s Classic crown for UCHS since 2013 and the first during Smith’s tenure as the head man for the Blue Devils.

“Being tied with Crocket for the most championships means a lot to us,” Smith said. “I’ve been a part of many championships as an assistant coach over the years. It felt gratifying to be the head coach for this title. I hope there are many more to come.”

Following the championship plaque presentation, Chase McNabb and Clay Simpson received all-tournament honors. Trevor Hensley, who scored his 1,000th career point against Morristown East, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“Trevor is such a hard worker,” Smith said of his junior guard. “He deserves to reach that milestone. He deserves all of the credit. He comes in before school and shoots a lot to keep getting better. His ultimate goal is to play college basketball and I think that is a real possibility for him.”

• • •

The Blue Devils may have won by double digits, but they found themselves in a nip-and-tuck game early on against Morristown East before making a run to take control of the game. Near the halfway point of the opening frame, East held a 6-5 lead thanks to two 3-pointers by Keegan Glenn. East would extend that lead to 5 points, 13-8, before 7 consecutive points by the Blue Devils gave them the lead again. East would tie the game at 15 before UCHS scored 5 unanswered points to end the quarter with a 20-15 advantage.

“We started hitting shots during the second part of the first quarter,” Smith said. “We were missing those early in the game.”

Senior Blue Devil guard Chase McNabb hit a 3-pointer to open the second as the UCHS offense began to get on a roll and its zone defense did a better job defending East’s shooters. Within the first two minutes of play in the second frame, the Blue Devils had taken a 27-18 lead.

Following a timeout by East, the teams played even basketball to a 38-29 score before the Blue Devils closed the half on a 12-5 run to take a 50-34 lead into halftime.

“We started to do a better job on the defensive end and limited them to one shot,” Smith said. “We continued to make shots, as well. Our posts players really did a good job of scoring and controlling the boards in the second quarter.”

East scored first in the third quarter, but never really threatened to get back into the game as the teams played almost even basketball during the final 16 minutes. The Blue Devils won the game 78-61.

“East came out with more intensity in the second half and picked up their play,” Smith said, “but, we did a good job of taking care of the basketball, weathering their runs and maintaining our lead.”

Hensley scored 20 points (2 3-pointers) and had 8 assists against East.

Putman scored 12 and had 4 assists. Jacob Smith had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Clay Simpson also had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Michael Howell and McNabb both scored 9 points (3 3-pointers) and had 3 assists each. Troy Podvin scored 7 points (1 3-pointer) and had 7 rebounds.

• • •

The Blue Devils advanced to the championship game with an exciting 60-59 win over Daniel Boone that went down to the final minute of play on Friday, Nov. 25.

With the game tied at 59 and 7.1 seconds to play, Simpson tipped an inbounds pass made by a Trailblazer, a scramble for possession ensued and Putman came up with the ball under his team’s goal. He was fouled and hit 1-2 from the free throw line to put his team up for good.

“It was a back-and-forth battle,” Smith said of the Boone game. “Both teams had chances to put the other team away, but missed free throws in the fourth quarter.”

Hensley scored 27 points (3 3-pointers) and had 5 assists and 5 steals to lead UCHS.

McNabb scored 12 (3 3-pointers). Simpson scored 8 and had 11 rebounds. Putman scored 6. Smith scored 4 and had 7 rebounds. Podvin scored 3 (1 3-pointer).

• • •

The Blue Devils opened the Hardee’s Classic with a solid performance against the Hampton Bulldogs on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

“I felt like we came out and got after Hampton early in the game and built a lead,” Smith said. “Hampton did a good job of getting back into the game to tie it. It was another back-and-forth battle between us.”

With the team’s tied at 38 at the end of the third quarter, the Blue Devils outscored the Bulldogs by 9 points to earn a hard fought 57-48 win.

“We went on a 15-2 run to start the fourth quarter,” Smith said. “We had a 13-point cushion with 3 minutes to play. We controlled the boards in that stretch. We did a good job of making Hampton take tough shots and getting the rebounds.”

Podvin scored the first 8 points of that 15-2 run. McNabb scored the next 7.

Hensley scored 14 (2 3-pointers) and had 7 assists. Podvin and Smith both had double-doubles with 10 points and 10 rebounds each. McNabb scored 10 (2 3-pointers), Putman scored 7 and Simpson scored 6 to go along with 10 rebounds.

• • •

The Blue Devils went on the road to face the Science Hill Hilltoppers on Tuesday, Nov. 29, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They are scheduled to travel to Sullivan South for their first Three Rivers Conference game of the season on Friday, Dec. 2. The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5 p.m. and the varsity is scheduled to play at 8 p.m.

UCHS will host Cloudland on Monday, Dec. 5, and will host conference rival Sullivan East on Friday, Dec. 8. The junior varsity is again scheduled to play at 5 p.m. with the varsity game beginning at 8 p.m.

Devils named to all-region team

By Keeli Parkey

Several Unicoi County High School football players have been recognized for their performances during the 2016 season.

Blue Devils chosen for the Region 1-3A first team were: Kendrick Williams, Dylan Lewis, Jacob Smith, Michael Howell, Nick Fender and Michael Smith, according to information released from region representatives. The region’s coaches voted on the awards.

Blue Devils receiving all-region honorable mention recognition were: Justin Laughren, Brett Lemmon, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Dylon Burgess and Bradley Edwards.

Blue Devil Cameron Higgins was also named to the region’s academic team.

The Blue Devils finished the season with a record of 5-6 and qualified for the playoffs. Their season ended with first-round playoff loss to Alcoa. Alcoa has advanced to the 3A championship game, scheduled to be played on Friday, Dec. 2, in Cookeville. They will face Liberty.

• • •

Chosen by the Region 1-3A coaches as player of the year was Corey Russell from Elizabethton High School. Other individual awards went to: Justin Howard from Northview Academy, offensive player of the year; Cameron Coleman from Elizabethton, defensive player of the year; Cliff Cole from Northview Academy, lineman of the year; Nicky Sisto from Pigeon Forge High School, special teams player of the year; Justin Lane from West Greene High School, athlete of the year; Carter Everett from Elizabethton, newcomer of the year; and Todd Loveday from Northview Academy, coach of the year.

Ladies continue tough early schedule of play

From Staff Reports

An early season stretch of competing against some of the region’s best basketball teams continued last week for the Unicoi County

Kenedy King drives to the basket against Hampton on Friday, Nov. 25. King scored 9 points in the game. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Kenedy King drives to the basket against Hampton on Friday, Nov. 25. King scored 9 points in the game. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

High School girls varsity basketball team.

The Lady Devils (2-4) spent Thanksgiving week playing three games in the Triten Insurance Thanksgiving Tournament at Sullivan East High School. And, despite losing all three of those games, head coach Kerri King saw her team continue to improve as they prepare for their upcoming Three Rivers Conference schedule.

“We play as difficult of a schedule as we can early in the season,” King told The Erwin Record. “I feel like our pre-conference season will have us ready to compete against all our conference opponents. Even though we lost the games last week, we played well in stretches of all of those games. We are a better team than our record shows.”

UCHS opened the Triten Classic against a very good Daniel Boone squad on Nov. 22 when a disastrous start proved too much for the Lady Devils to overcome. Boone held a 28-4 lead at the end of the first frame of play.

“We were locked up in the first quarter,” King said. “We didn’t execute our game plan and we didn’t do the fundamental things we have been doing. After we spotted them 24 points, we played them much closer. We regained our focus, but it was too late.”

From the second quarter on, the Lady Trailblazers only outscored UCHS by nine points and won the game 66-33.

Junior Kenedy King led the Lady Devils in scoring against Boone with 11 points. Seniors Neelee Griffith and Ashley Edwards scored 7 and 4 points, respectively.

Sophomore Kaylee Hendrickson scored 4, junior Halie Padgett scored 3, junior Rachel Lynch scored 2 and freshman Kaitlin Bailey scored 2.

• • •

King didn’t have to wait long to see how her players would bounce back from the loss to Boone – the Lady Devils were back at Sullivan East on Wednesday, Nov. 23, to face the host Lady Patriots. And bounce back they did, according to their head coach.

“Our focus and intensity were 100 percent better than the day before,” King said.

This helped the Lady Devils get off to a solid start against a team that is expected to contend for the Three Rivers Conference championship this season. UCHS led East 14-10 at the end of the first quarter and a 31-29 lead at the half, despite several of the Lady Devils’ starters having to go to the bench because of fouls.

“We were in foul trouble the whole game,” King said.

The game continued to go back and forth during the third period with East chipping one point off the Lady Devils’ lead. At the end of the third, UCHS led 39-38.

The foul trouble really caught up to the Lady Devils during the final eight minutes with three players – Hendrickson, King and Powers fouling out of the game.

“We weren’t at our strongest in the fourth quarter,” King said. “East was able to knock down some shots in the fourth.”

The undermanned Lady Devils were outscored by the Lady Patriots 25-12 in the final eight minutes as the home team earned a 63-51 victory over UCHS.

“We gave a solid effort and showed a lot of intensity,” King said. “Kaylee had a solid floor game. She has made huge strides to lead the team and showed promise as a point guard.”

Padgett led the ladies with a double-double (18 points and 12 rebounds).

Edwards scored 11 points, (2 3-pointers). Griffith scored 7 and had 6 rebounds. Bailey scored 6 and had 8 rebounds. King scored 5 and had 4 rebounds. Powers scored 4 points.

• • •

The Lady Devils’ intensity carried over Thanksgiving into Friday, Nov. 25, as they faced the always tough Hampton Lady Bulldogs. The ladies held their own against Hampton in the first, taking an 11-9 lead after the first frame of play.

In the second, the Lady Devils put together a stretch of their best basketball of the season, taking a 24-14 lead near the midway point of the quarter. Contributing to this lead was a very good effort on the boards, which pleased King.

“We did a great job rebounding against Hampton,” she said, “especially offensively.”

The Lady Bulldogs put together a run of their own during the closing minutes of the first half, thanks to several baskets by guard Shyanne Tuelle. UCHS took a 32-29 lead into the half.

In the second half, foul trouble again plagued the Lady Devils, taking the team out of rhythm and allowing Hampton to make a run. The third quarter ended with UCHS still in the lead, 44-43, but the Lady Bulldogs only needed a few moments in the fourth quarter to take their first lead since the first quarter.

“We keep getting into foul trouble,” King said. “We have to do a better job with that.”

The Lady Devils wouldn’t go down without a fight. With just over a minute to play, Hampton held a 56-49 lead. UCHS would put 7 points on the board in the final minutes, but the Lady Bulldogs made free throws down the stretch to secure the 62-56 win.

Padgett had another double-double against Hampton with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Edwards scored 13 points (4 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds. Powers scored 9 (2 3-pointers). King scored 9 (1 3-pointer). Griffith scored 6 and had 12 rebounds. Bailey scored 2 and Lynch scored 1. Hendrickson dished out 5 assists.

• • •

The Lady Devils traveled to Science Hill to face the Lady Hilltoppers on Tuesday, Nov. 29, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They are scheduled to play their first Three Rivers Conference game of the season on Friday, Dec. 2, when they travel to Sullivan South. The junior varsity will open play at 3:30 p.m. The varsity squad is scheduled to take the court at 6:30 p.m.

The Lady Devils will host Cloudland on Monday, Dec. 5, and will get a rematch with Sullivan East on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Devils’ Den. The junior varsity is again scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m. with the varsity game beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Peavyhouse signs with Coastal Carolina baseball team

Shaddon Peavyhouse, seated center, was joined by his parents, Paul and Cindy, as well as his teammates and coaches during his signing ceremony last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Shaddon Peavyhouse, seated center, was joined by his parents, Paul and Cindy, as well as his teammates and coaches during his signing ceremony last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A Blue Devil will be joining a national powerhouse after graduation.

Unicoi County High School senior Shaddon Peavyhouse officially signed with Coastal Carolina – the winner of the 2016 NCAA College World Series – in a ceremony held at UCHS on Wednesday, Nov. 9.

“It feels great,” Peavyhouse told The Erwin Record. “There is no program I would rather be a part of. I think I bring a lot to the team because I can play all nine positions if needed. They have recruited me as a two-way player, so I will play shortstop and pitch.”

Peavyhouse said he first learned of Coastal Carolina’s interest in recruiting him after he pitched in a tournament in South Carolina.

“I received a phone call from (assistant/pitching) coach (Drew) Thomas and he wanted me to go on a visit as soon as possible,” Peavyhouse said. “He said they were very interested in me after they watched me pitch in the CABA World Series.”

Peavyhouse said he chose Coastal Carolina for several reasons.

“I chose Coastal Carolina because of the coaches, for the most part, because of the way that they develop their players,” he said. “I really enjoyed the campus on my visit and everyone spoke to me while I was there, so they made me feel like I was at home.”

Before he joins the Chanticleers, Peavyhouse still has a senior season to play for the Blue Devils – a season he is looking forward to.

“I believe this year that we are going to Murfreesboro to compete in the state tournament,” Peavyhouse said.

Blue Devil head coach Chad Gillis said he expects Peavyhouse to be a key player in the Blue Devils’ 2017 season.

“Shaddon is a talented athlete,” Gillis said. “He consistently brings a great work ethic and competitive attitude to the team. As a junior, he began to take on the role of team leader.  He filled this role well both on and off the field.

“I expect Shaddon to fill multiple roles this season. He will play shortstop and be a big bat for us in the lineup. I also expect him to excel on the mound. He may serve multiple roles as a pitcher, but I want to see him be a shutdown guy in whatever role he plays.”

Peavyhouse’s competitive spirit is an asset to the Blue Devils.

“Shaddon loves to compete,” Gillis said. “His competitiveness and work ethic helps to push his teammates to better themselves. He can play any position on the field and do it at a high level. A lot of players look up to Shaddon and will listen to advice he may give them on the field.

“He is coachable and works to be the best player he can be, this rubs off on many of his teammates,” Gillis continued.

Todd races at state meet

By Keeli Parkey

Unicoi County was well represented during the recent TSSAA state cross country meet.

According to UCHS cross country coach Thad Higgins, junior Lady Devil Megan Todd placed 31st out of a field on 181 runners at the meet held in Nashville on Nov. 5.

“Megan ran an exceptional race,” Higgins said. “She ran her fastest 5K time of the season, coming in at 21:06.”

Todd’s finish was a mark of the consistency shown during her career at UCHS.

“I was certainly proud of Megan throughout this entire season,” Higgins said. “She consistently pushed herself in practice as well as races to be the best she could be.”

Todd also showed grit near the end of the season, her head coach said.

“I was especially impressed with Megan throughout the last few weeks of practice because she was battling minor injuries in addition to training for the state race,” Higgins said. “I’m very excited to see what Megan will be able to do in the future. We really learned a lot from this season’s training and the obstacles that it presented and I look forward to making some improvements to our practices. I’m looking forward as well to this upcoming track season where she will get the opportunity to compete on the track, as well as to grow stronger for next year’s cross country season.”

Team has more depth than in past

The 2016-17 UCHS Blue Devil varsity team will open play on Thursday, Nov. 17, against both Volunteer and Greeneville in the Devils’ Den. Tip-off of the Volunteer game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.; the Greeneville game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. The varsity squad includes, pictured from left, back row, head coach Kerri King, Neelee Griffith, Ashley Edwards, Halie Padgett, Kaitlin Bailey, Kenedy King, assistant coach Megan Davis and varsity assistant Keeli Parkey; front row, Kaylia Street, Ashtan Vance, Chloe Powers, Kaylee Hendrickson, Rachel Lynch, Allee Griffith and Kaitlyn Tilson. (Photo contributed by Anthony Piercy)

The 2016-17 UCHS Blue Devil varsity team will open play on Thursday, Nov. 17, against both Volunteer and Greeneville in the Devils’ Den. Tip-off of the Volunteer game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.; the Greeneville game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. The varsity squad includes, pictured from left, back row, head coach Kerri King, Neelee Griffith, Ashley Edwards, Halie Padgett, Kaitlin Bailey, Kenedy King, assistant coach Megan Davis and varsity assistant Keeli Parkey; front row, Kaylia Street, Ashtan Vance, Chloe Powers, Kaylee Hendrickson, Rachel Lynch, Allee Griffith and Kaitlyn Tilson. (Photo contributed by Anthony Piercy)

By Scottie Blankenship

The Unicoi County High School girls’ basketball team is looking to bounce back from last season’s 13-21 record and to be competitive in a Three Rivers Conference with a lot of parity.

Under the direction of head coach Kerri King, the Lady Devils return two seniors and a host of players looking to leave their marks on the program.

“We have more depth this season than we have had in the past,” King recently said. “Most of our players have at least varsity experience and maturity.”

Expected to lead the way for the Lady Devils are seniors Neelee Griffith and Ashley Edwards. Griffith is an all-around player who will play both guard and post positions on both ends of the floor.

“Neelee is tenacious,” King said. “We rely on her a lot. She plays hard, has found her niche offensively and has learned to trust her teammates.”

Griffith averaged 6.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

King said she will also be calling on Edwards, not only for points and rebounds, but for leadership as well. Edwards averaged 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during her junior season.

“We need her to play big for us this year,” King said. “She’s a solid player and has worked hard.”

Other players who are expected to contribute this season are juniors Halie Padgett, Rachel Lynch, Kenedy King and Kaitlyn Tilson.

Padgett has become a mainstay under the basket for the ladies. She brings size and athleticism to the court. Before her sophomore season was cut short by an injury, Padgett was averaging 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds for game.

Lynch and King both saw varsity minutes last season. Lynch is a post player who is a solid defender and rebounder. King is a good shooter and defender. Tilson is a smart guard who will run the point guard position for the junior varsity team.

“The juniors have been thrown into playing situations before,” King said. “That experience gives them confidence going into this season. They have worked on their games in the offseason and bring a sense of maturity to the floor that we didn’t have.”

Sophomore guards Kaylee Hendrickson and Chloe Powers also return for the Lady Devils. Hendrickson is expected to be the starting point guard for the squad.

“Kaylee has a great skill set and she handles the ball well,” King said. “She is a good shooter and a strong defender. She will move to play point guard this season, which is her natural position.”

Hendrickson gained some varsity experience last season before missing the last part of the season due to an injury.

Powers also made noise last year as a freshman and was thrust into the starting lineup after injuries hit the Lady Devils.

“Chloe was one of best players at the end of last season,” King said. “She carried us in some games in the tournament.”

Powers’ play in the tournament didn’t go unnoticed, as she received District 1-AA all-tournament honors.

Sophomore post player Allee Griffith brings physicality and rebounding to the team, King said.

Rounding out the varsity squad are freshmen Kaitlin Bailey, Ashtan Vance and Kaylia Street.

Bailey is a versatile player who can play almost every position on the floor. Vance and Street are both tough guards who can score and play solid defense.

“There is a lot of depth in the freshman class,” King said. “They are good athletes and that helps them bring a lot of intensity to practice.”

King said the Lady Devils will be competing in a Three Rivers Conference where any team can beat another on any given night.

“There is a lot of parity in the conference,” King said. “That is a good thing, but it also means you have to be on your toes ready to play night in and night out. Every game is going to count.”

Joining King on the sidelines will be assistant coach Megan Davis and varsity assistant Keeli Parkey.

Fans will get their first look of the Lady Devils on Thursday, Nov. 18, when they host the Volunteer Falcons at 2:30 p.m. in the Devils’ Den in Hall of Champions action. The team will take to the court again on Thursday to face Greeneville at 8 p.m.

Hall of Champions action will continue on Saturday, Nov. 20, when Cherokee visits Erwin. Action will begin at 11 a.m. with the junior varsity girls’ game. This will be followed by the junior varsity boys’ game at 12:30 p.m., the girls’ varsity game at 2 p.m. and the boys’ varsity game at 3:30 p.m.

The Lady Devils will travel to Sullivan East next week for holiday tournament action. They will play Daniel Boone at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22; Sullivan East on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at 8:30 p.m.; and Hampton on Friday, Nov. 25, at 3:30 p.m.

Experience returns for Blue Devils

The 2016-17 UCHS Blue Devil varsity team will open play on Thursday, Nov. 17, against both Volunteer and Greeneville in the Devils’ Den. Tip-off of the Volunteer game is scheduled for 1 p.m.; the Greeneville game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The varsity squad includes, pictured from left, back row, manager Caitlyn Wilson, Brett Lingerfelt, Gavin Casey, Danny Lowery, Trevor Hensley, Clay Simpson, Troy Podvin, Austin O’Dell, Brett Strother, Ty Thelen, manager Faith Bailey and manager Madison Peterson; front row, assistant coach Ben Evely, head coach Michael Smith, Dylan Putman, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Jacob Smith, Michael Howell, Chase McNabb, assistant coach Jordan Simmons and assistant coach Malcolm Foreman; not pictured, manager Alex Peterson. (Photo contributed by Anthony Piercy)

The 2016-17 UCHS Blue Devil varsity team will open play on Thursday, Nov. 17, against both Volunteer and Greeneville in the Devils’ Den. Tip-off of the Volunteer game is scheduled for 1 p.m.; the Greeneville game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The varsity squad includes, pictured from left, back row, manager Caitlyn Wilson, Brett Lingerfelt, Gavin Casey, Danny Lowery, Trevor Hensley, Clay Simpson, Troy Podvin, Austin O’Dell, Brett Strother, Ty Thelen, manager Faith Bailey and manager Madison Peterson; front row, assistant coach Ben Evely, head coach Michael Smith, Dylan Putman, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Jacob Smith, Michael Howell, Chase McNabb, assistant coach Jordan Simmons and assistant coach Malcolm Foreman; not pictured, manager Alex Peterson. (Photo contributed by Anthony Piercy)

By Scottie Blankenship

The Unicoi County High School boys’ basketball team will be hitting the hardwood with four starters returning from last season’s team which posted a 19-13 record and advanced to the region tournament before losing in the first round under head coach Michael Smith.

That experience, plus a group of talented underclassmen, could spell trouble for the Blue Devils’ opponents.

“We feel confident that we can be in the top half of the league and compete for a championship,” Smith said. “We have a lot of kids returning and have a lot of experience.”

Smith also said his team has worked hard this preseason to get the pieces in place for a successful campaign.

“With some players missing practices because of football and injuries, we are still a work in progress,” Smith added. “We are still learning how to play together. I think we are going to be a good team when we can get all the pieces together and on the court.”

Leading the attack for UCHS will be junior point guard Trevor Hensley whose play as a sophomore looked more like the play of an experienced upperclassman.

“Trevor plays year round and is in the gym when he’s not playing,” Smith said of the point guard.

Hensley led the Blue Devils in scoring last season, averaging just under 18 points per game. But, he’s not just a scorer – he also averaged 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game last season.

Fortunately for Smith and the Blue Devils, Hensley isn’t the only player who can fill up the stat sheet. Guard Dylan Putman returns for his senior campaign. Last season, he averaged 12 points and 2 assists per game. He is also a leader for the team, according to Smith.

“Putt is emotional, aggressive and physical,” the head coach said, “and, he has an enormous will to win.”

In the paint, UCHS is returning two guys who are no strangers to anyone in the Three Rivers Conference. Whether it’s staring down a batter from the pitcher’s mound or chasing opposing quarterbacks around the football field, junior Clay Simpson and senior Jacob Smith bring size, skill and athleticism on the post.

“We have two big guys that we expect a lot out of defensively and to help us out offensively,” Smith said of Simpson and Smith. “Jacob is a very tough and hard-nosed player. He gets after it.

Clay can play both inside and out and is a solid player. We need them to use their size and physical abilities to help us win the rebounding battle each game.”

Both Simpson and Smith averaged just under 9 points and 9 rebounds per game last season.

Guards Troy Podvin, a junior, and Chase McNabb, a senior, are also expected to play substantial minutes this season.

“Troy and Chase can both score, rebound and are good defenders,” Smith said.

Seniors Michael Howell and Shaddon Peavyhouse, who, along with Jacob Smith, are coming off a successful football season, are expected to be defensive specialists for UCHS.

“We think we can put Michael and Shaddon on anyone on the floor and feel very good about the matchup,” Smith said of the two seniors.

Rounding out the varsity squad are sophomores Gavin Casey, Danny Lowery, Austin O’Dell, Brett Strother and Ty Thelen and freshman Brett Lingerfelt.

“I think our sophomore class is a good group,” Smith said. “They have good ball handlers and good post players and they really play hard. Brett Lingerfelt is a hard worker with a lot of skill. We expect a lot out of all those guys as they get older.”

Smith said the battle for the Three Rivers Conference crown will be a tough one with five teams – UCHS, Sullivan East, Elizabethton, Johnson County and Happy Valley – being capable of winning the title.

“Any of us could win the league,” Smith said. “It will be a battle, night in and night out, for the championship.”

Joining Smith on the sidelines this season will be assistant coaches Ben Evely, Jordan Simmons and Malcolm Foreman.

Fans will get their first look of the Blue Devils on Thursday, Nov. 18, when they host the Volunteer Falcons at 1 p.m. in the Devils’ Den in Hall of Champions action. The team will take to the court again on Thursday to face Greeneville at 6:30 p.m.

Hall of Champions action will continue on Saturday, Nov. 20, when Cherokee visits Erwin. Action will begin at 11 a.m. with the junior varsity girls’ game. This will be followed by the junior varsity boys’ game at 12:30 p.m., the girls’ varsity game at 2 p.m. and the boys’ varsity game at 3:30 p.m.

“I expect three tough games for us,” Smith said of the Hall of Champions games. “It will be three good tests for us going into the season.”

The varsity Blue Devils will play in the Hardee’s Classic next week. They will open play on Tuesday, Nov. 22, against Hampton at 5:30 p.m.

Win or lose, UCHS will play on Friday and Saturday. Opponents and game times will be announced as the tournament progresses.

“We are going into the Hardee’s focused on winning our fifth title,” Smith said. “We have a tough draw against a good Hampton team.”