Fast start lifts soccer team over University High

Jose Ortiz battles for possession of the ball during the Blue Devils’ win over University High last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Jose Ortiz battles for possession of the ball during the Blue Devils’ win over University High last week. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

A fast start and a strong finish lifted the Unicoi County High School boys soccer team to their second victory of the season last week.

The Blue Devils (2-4) defeated University High at Civitan Park in Johnson City on Thursday, March 30.

“We talked about the importance of finishing the game strong,” head coach Justin Ciralsky told The Erwin Record. “So far this season we have started well, and then let off the gas and it has hurt us because we lost games that we were winning. So the focus during UH was to start strong and finish strong. They accomplished this.”

The Blue Devils held a 3-0 score at halftime and traded goals with the Junior Bucs in the second half to win the game 4-1. UH’s only score came on a penalty kick.

UCHS dominated possession of the ball throughout the game – something they have done all season, according to their head coach.

“Our passing and possession have been consistent throughout the entire season,” Ciralsky said. “In every game the boys have played well. They are moving the ball around the field and making nice runs in order to keep the ball. Our three midfield players – Sam Murillo, Daniel Meza and Chris Andrade – are doing an excellent job at keeping possession. Keeping possession helps us to control the game, and it forces the other team to adapt and play our style. Keeping possession also helps us to get more shots and hopefully more goals.”

Murillo, a senior, and Meza, a junior, each scored a goal in the game. Senor Jose Ortiz scored 2. Meza turned in a standout performance for UCHS.

“Daniel had an outstanding game,” Ciralsky said. “He played consistently well and improved as the game went on. It is promising to watch him grow into a leader that the team will need throughout this year and in the years to come. As a whole most of the boys played well.”

• • •

The Blue Devils were scheduled to host Tennessee High on Tuesday, April 4, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

Their next game is a conference matchup scheduled for 6 p.m. against Sullivan South in Erwin.

• • •

For more photos from the game, visit http://www.erwinrecordpix.com/Sports/High-School-Sports/Soccer-High-School/Blue-Devil-Soccer/2017/Soccer-at-University-High-March-2017/

Blue Devils win three straight games

Second baseman Caleb Crain throws to first base against Sevier County. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Second baseman Caleb Crain throws to first base against Sevier County. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Three games ended in three victories for the Unicoi County High School varsity baseball team last week.

The Blue Devils (8-4, 4-2) opened the week with an 11-1 victory over Happy Valley in Three Rivers Conference action on Tuesday, March 28.

“We played great tonight,” head coach Chad Gillis said of his team’s performance against the Warriors. “Everything came together in one game and that’s what we have been waiting for.”

Clay Simpson had a standout game for UCHS. The junior pitcher moved to 3-0 on the season with the victory, throwing 9 strikeouts and allowing only 4 hits. He also had a good game in the batter’s box, according to his head coach.

“Clay pitched a great game,” Gillis said. “Clay also had two hits himself, one being a home run.

The whole squad worked hard to get an important conference win.

“When the ball was put in play our defense made the play or got the ball in without damage,” Gillis said. “We had guys step up offensively tonight. We bounced back in a major way after a tough game on the road. I am proud of the way these guys responded and kept the fire to beat Happy Valley the way we did.”

Senior Dylan Putman went 3-for-3 with a home run in the win. Senior Shaddon Peavyhouse also hit a home run and went 2-for-3 with the plate. Junior Owen Nicholson went 3-for-3.

• • •

Sevier County left Erwin with a 6-5 loss on Thursday, March 30.

“Sevier County is a top AAA team and posed a good challenge for us,” Gillis said.

Peavyhouse got his third win of the season with a solid outing, giving up 6 hits and throwing 7 strikeouts.

“It worked out where Peavyhouse was able to pitch this game and he did a tremendous job on the mound,” Gillis said. “Shaddon battled all night with their hitters and we managed to come out on top. We had some defensive blunders, but offensively we got the job done.  We need to continue to challenge ourselves and get better everyday.”

Senior Nick Fender and Putman both went 2-for-4 at the plate with an RBI.

• • •

The Blue Devils got their second non-conference win of the week on Saturday, April 1, with a 9-6 victory over Tennessee High in Erwin.

Junior pitcher Troy Podvin led UCHS to the victory.

“Troy had a day Saturday against Tennessee High,” Gillis said. “He got the win on the mound and also went 3-for-4 at the plate, including a home run and 3 RBIs.”

The Blue Devils turned in a solid performance on offensive on Saturday.

“We played well offensively against Tennessee High,” Gillis said. “They are another good AAA team and we had to execute offensively to beat them. We bunted for hits multiple times and then had timely hitting from guys to get runners in. It was a back and forth game until the fifth inning and we put multiple runs on the board. The guys never quit and just stuck to the game plan.”

Fender went 2-for-3 and hit his second home run on the season in the game.

Last week’s action showed that his team is going in the right direction, according to the head coach.

“We seem to be getting better every day and that is great to see as a coach,” Gillis said. “We still had some defensive miscues, but are working to get those fixed.”

• • •

The Blue Devils were scheduled to host Elizabethton on Tuesday, April 4, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They are scheduled to host Sullivan South for a conference game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 5. The Blue Devils will play in the Chop House Classic from April 6-8. Tournament games are as follows: Thursday at Hunter Wright Stadium against Cherokee at 7:15 p.m.; Friday at Cardinal Park against Greeneville at 5:45 p.m. and Science Hill at 8 p.m.; Saturday at Cardinal Park against Cincinnati Elder at 1:30 p.m.

UCHS will travel to Myrtle Beach to play in the Mingo Bay Classic from April 10-14.

For more photos, follow this link: http://www.erwinrecordpix.com/Sports/High-School-Sports/High-School-Baseball/2017/UCHS-Blue-Devil-Baseball-vs-Sevier-County-March-2017/

Athletes compete at Tri-Cities Classic

Stephanie Wisse races to a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles during the Tri-Cities Track Classic held at Science Hill over the weekend. Wisse also won third in the 100-meter dash. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Stephanie Wisse races to a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles during the Tri-Cities Track Classic held at Science Hill over the weekend. Wisse also won third in the 100-meter dash. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

In a meet that hosted more than 700 athletes and 35 schools, members of the Unicoi County High School track and field team left an impression.

The Tri-Cities Track Classic held at Science Hill on Friday, March 31, and Saturday, April 1, was a meet where UCHS athletes saw and competed against some tough opponents, according to head coach Megan Davis.

“I think any chance we get to expose our athletes to high caliber competition is only going to raise the bar for them,” Davis said. “My expectation for our athletes is for them to perform at the postseason level. If I am going to ask that of them, I need to put them in meets where they are going to be rattled, have to compete and have to push themselves. This was that type of meet.”

Blue Devils and Lady Devils returned to Erwin with top-10 finishes from the meet.

Senior Stephanie Wisse turned in the top performances for UCHS over the weekend, winning third place in the 100-meter dash, third place in the 300-meter hurdles and ninth in the triple jump.

The 300-meter hurdle race is a new event for Wisse, having just started competing in it during this season.

“Stephanie’s 300-meter hurdle result was excellent,” Davis said. “She dropped below 50 seconds, which is what we needed her to do. That race is a stretch of endurance. She is doing really well in the event and is enjoying running it. It is an event that she can perform at the state level.”

Senior Cameron Higgins, who signed with Milligan College prior to the start of the season, turned in the most notable result for the Blue Devils – finishing ninth in the discus throw.

“Cameron threw pretty well,” Davis said. “He is performing where we need him to be right now. He is doing a lot to take care of his body. Knowing he has a future college career, he is working to make sure he ends his high school career successfully and is prepared for college. He is putting a lot of work in on his own.”

He didn’t finish in the top-10, but sophomore John Campbell represented UCHS well, including running in a new event for him – the 2,000-meter steeplechase – and setting personal records in other events, according to his head coach.

“John had an amazing weekend,” Davis said. “He has never run the steeplechase before. He did well and had fun with it. He ran personal records in both the 800-meter and the mile. He is doing everything we ask of him. He is turning in huge drops in his times.”

Other UCHS athletes made strides during the event, Davis said.

“Almost all of our athletes set personal records in some way at the meet,” she added. “It was good for them to see such quality competition.”

Eastman Tournament learning experience for team

Faith Bailey fields a ball in right field. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Faith Bailey fields a ball in right field. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The team they had defeated two days prior ousted the Unicoi County High School softball team from the Eastman Tournament over the weekend.

Playing in the tournament’s round of 16, the Lady Devils (11-6, 3-1) were eliminated by an 8-5 loss to Siegel on Saturday, April 1, at Brickyard Park in Kingsport.

“We had to win that game to get to Sunday’s round of 8,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt said. “Siegel is a very big school and the softball team is very well-coached. They were a good opponent and it is good for us to play people like that. …

“We hit the ball well and we got on a roll. They probably had the best pitcher we faced all year and she throws it really hard. It was a good ballgame. We should have won. We had a couple things go wrong in the end,” Lingerfelt said.

The Lady Devils took command of the game in the top half of the third inning, scoring 5 runs.

Senior Ashley Edwards opened the inning by reaching on an error, then moved to second on a single by sophomore Halie Hawkins. Edwards would then score the first run of the game thanks to an RBI-double by junior Rylee Stiltner. Junior Tanya Chavez then hit a single, scoring Hawkins and Stiltner, for a 3-0 UCHS lead.

Neelee Griffith hit a single and following two consecutive outs, fellow senior Hannah Bowen hit a 2-RBI single, scoring Griffith and Chavez, giving UCHS a 5-0 lead.

“We got up on them 5-0 and held that lead for a while,” Lingerfelt said. “Things then unraveled after that. They had some balls drop in that shouldn’t have when should have probably made the play.”

Siegel responded with 2 runs in the bottom of the third and 4 in the bottom of the fourth to take a 6-5 lead.

The Lady Devils couldn’t get back into the game and Siegel added 2 more runs to win the game 8-5. The loss eliminated the ladies from the tournament.

Bowen (2 RBIs) and Hawkins had 2 hits each in the game. Savannah Lafever, Keelie Hall, Chavez (2 RBI), Griffith and Stiltner each had 1 hit in the game.

Knox Halls won the 2017 Eastman Tournament.

• • •

During play on Thursday, March 30, the Lady Devils had beaten Siegel 4-2. This game, and the Lady Devils’ 8-4 loss to Gate City the same evening, were part of the extra games Eastman allowed teams to play. These results were not part of the tournament’s pool play, which began on Friday, March 31.

UCHS opened Friday’s pool play with a loss to Greenbrier. Despite holding a 4-0 lead following the top half of the fourth inning, the Lady Devils couldn’t close out the game and get the win. Greenbrier scored 8 runs in the bottom half of the fourth inning to win the game the 8-4

Bowen had 2 hits and 1 RBI in the loss. Hawkins had 1 hit and 2 RBIs. Lafever, Edwards, Griffith, Hall and Halie Padgett had one hit each. Stiltner had the other RBI for UCHS.

A few hours later, the Lady Devils bounced back with a 10-0 victory over Knox Karns.

UCHS scored 3 runs in the first inning and 2 in the second and 5 in the fifth to win the game. The Lady Devils had 12 hits, including 4 by Stiltner, who went 4-for-4 at the plate. Chavez went 2-for-3 with 3 RBIs and a home run.

UCHS opened pool play on Saturday with a 6-2 win over Tennessee High. The Lady Vikings took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Lady Devils answered with 2 runs of their own to tie the game.

UCHS took control of the game for good in the third inning when Griffith hit an RBI triple, Hall hit an RBI double and Padgett hit an RBI single. The Lady Devils scored 1 run in the fifth inning.

Griffith (2 RBIs), Hall (2 RBIs), Padgett (2 RBIs) and Hawkins had 2 hits each in the game.

The final pool play game of the day resulted in a 6-3 victory over Morristown West for the Lady Devils. Chavez had 2 hits and an RBI in the win.

“It was a very good tournament,” Lingerfelt said. “We got a lot of good experience. We can grow with it and learn from it to get better.”

• • •

The Lady Devils were scheduled to host Sullivan South for a conference game on Tuesday, April 4, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They are scheduled to play conference games at Johnson County on Wednesday, April 5, and at Sullivan East on Thursday, April 6. Both games are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

“We have a busy week ahead of us,” Lingerfelt said.

The annual NFS Tournament will be played at Lady Devil Diamond in Erwin on Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8. The Lady Devils will compete in pool play games on Friday against Sullivan Central at 5:30 p.m. and University High at 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday at 9 a.m. against David Crockett. The bracket portion of the tournament will begin on Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Devils will open the Azalea Classic in Summerville, S.C., on Monday, April 10. Tournament play will continue through Wednesday, April 12.

Coach pleased with Blue Devils’ effort

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School boys soccer team battled their way through a tournament last weekend.

After playing two games earlier in the week, the Blue Devils (1-4) traveled to Kingsport to play in the Jon Metcalf Highland Cup hosted by Dobyns-Bennett.

“We were the smallest school there,” head coach Justin Ciralsky said. “We played great and the scores definitely don’t reflect our efforts.”

UCHS opened the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Sullivan Central on Friday, March 24.

“In the Central game we dominated possession, passing and shooting, but we were unable to score,” Ciralsky said. “It was our best game of the season. The other team’s goalie made three absolutely amazing saves to keep them in the game.”

The loss set up a consolation game with Morristown West on Saturday, March 25. It was their third game in as many days, according to their head coach.

“Against Morristown West we were playing well and my starters got us up to an early 2-0 lead, but they were tired because that was the third game in a row so we switched some people around,” Ciralsky said. “We were also missing four players and if you combine that with three penalty kicks (for West), that is the biggest reason why we lost. The boys played well, but we were trying some players in new positions during the last two games.”

Later on Saturday, the Blue Devils fought Morristown East down to the wire, losing 8-7 in penalty kicks.

“Overall, the weekend went well and the coaching staff was quite pleased with what we saw all week long,” Ciralsky said. “We are looking forward to the rest of the season and we are dedicated to finishing strong.”

• • •

The Blue Devils saw their first conference action on Thursday, March 23, at Elizabethton. Unfortunately for UCHS, despite a solid effort they just missed out on a win, falling to the Cyclones 5-4.

“Against Elizabethton we played great, but made some costly mistakes that they were able to capitalize on,” Ciralsky said.

The Blue Devils opened the season with a 2-1 victory over Union, Va., on Monday, March 20.

UCHS got on the scoreboard early in the game and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Jose Ortiz into the first half.

Ortiz scored again for the Blue Devils in the second half. Union also got on the scoreboard, but the Blue Devils kept them in check from there. UCHS won the game 2-1.

• • •

The Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to Johnson City to play University High at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30.

They will host Tennessee High on Tuesday, April 4, at 6 p.m.

Baseball team defeats conference foes

Junior Owen Nicholson slides into second base against Johnson County. (Photo contributed by Adam Campbell)

Junior Owen Nicholson slides into second base against Johnson County. (Photo contributed by Adam Campbell)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School baseball team fought hard, but couldn’t get a There Rivers Conference win on Monday, March 27.

Playing at Sullivan East, the Blue Devils (5-4, 3-2) were held scoreless as the Patriots earned a 1-0 win.

“We competed against Sullivan East,” head coach Chad Gillis said. “We made plays defensively and showed a lot of effort. We struggled at the plate. We had four hits and runners at third three straight innings, we just couldn’t get any across the plate.”

Junior pitcher Caleb Wilson threw a solid game for UCHS, according to Gillis.

“Caleb battled for seven innings,” he added. “He gave us a great chance to win; we just didn’t capitalize offensively.”

Senior Shaddon Peavyhouse led the Blue Devils at the plate, going 2-for-3.

• • •

Non-conference opponents Morristown East and Daniel Boone got the best of the Blue Devils over the weekend. Playing at East on Saturday, March 25, UCHS fell 11-2.

“We struggled all around this game,” Gillis said. “We couldn’t seem to find grass on offense and defensively, we kicked the ball around all day.”

Standing out for the Blue Devils in the game was the pitching performance of junior Troy Podvin, who also hit a homerun in the game. Wilson had the other RBI for UCHS against East. Junior Owen Nicholson, senior Justin Laughren and Peavyhouse each had one hit in the game.

Despite scoring 3 runs in the first inning, the Blue Devils couldn’t hold on to get a win over Boone on Friday, March 24. The Trailblazers came from behind to win the game 8-4.

“We hit the ball well this game,” Gillis said. “We just couldn’t find a hole.

Peavyhouse went 3-for-4 at the plate in the game. Senior Nick Fender, Laughren (1 RBI), junior Hunter Higgins (1 RBI) and senior Cameron Spires had 1 hit each. Senior Dylan Putman and Podvin each had an RBI.

• • •

The Blue Devils got two important conference wins last week. On Tuesday, March 21, they defeated Johnson County 10-0; they defeated Sullivan North 3-0 the following day.

“We did everything well against Johnson County,” Gillis said. “We had a dominant performance from Shaddon on the mound and we totaled 11 hits with two of those being home runs.”

Peavyhouse pitched 4 innings and had 6 strikeouts. Putman and Laughren each hit a homerun in the game.

“It was good to see Dylan and Justin open up on balls and a good pitching performance,” Gillis said of the win.

The Blue Devils got an excellent pitching performance from junior Clay Simpson against Sullivan North.

“Clay’s outing was incredible,” Gillis said. “He threw a no-hitter and just dominated the entire game. It was really exciting to watch him pitch. Clay will be pivotal in our success this season.”

Offensively, the Blue Devils struggled a little, but made plays when they needed to to get the 3-0 victory.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance,” Gillis said. “We have to be able to make an adjustment at the plate to beat the top teams in our conference. We got bunts down when we needed to. We struggled to get the ball in play, but did whatever it took to win the game.”

UCHS opened last week with an 8-2 loss at Sullivan South on March 20.

• • •

The Blue Devils hosted Happy Valley on Tuesday, March 28, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

They are scheduled to host Sevier County at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, Tennessee High at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, and Elizabethton at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4.

Softball team takes fourth place in tournament

Sophomore left fielder Halie Hawkins runs down a fly ball to make a catch during action last week. (Photo contributed by Adam Campbell)

Sophomore left fielder Halie Hawkins runs down a fly ball to make a catch during action last week. (Photo contributed by Adam Campbell)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School softball team capped off a busy first week of action with a 9-1 victory over Johnson County on Monday, March 27, in Erwin.

“We got off to really slow start and didn’t hit the ball well,” head coach Grady Lingerfelt said following the game. “They have a good pitcher who throws the ball hard.”

The Lady Longhorns got off to a strong start in the top of the first inning when Hannah Brooks hit a solo home run, giving her team a 1-0 lead.

The Lady Devils (7-3, 3-1) responded with 3 runs in the bottom of the third inning. UCHS took control of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring 6 runs en route to the victory.

“We finally started to hit the ball,” Lingerfelt said of his team’s sixth inning performance. “We made some things happen with the run game and bunts. We played small ball and that paid off for us.”

Senior Neelee Griffith, junior Tanya Chavez and sophomore Halie Hawkins led the Lady Devils at the plate against Johnson County with 2 hits each. Hawkins had 2 RBIs; Griffith and Chavez had 1 RBI each. Senior Savannah Lafever had the only other hit for UCHS in the game. Lafever and senior Ashley Edwards had an RBI each.

Halie Padgett got the win in the circle, giving up 1 earned run and striking out 4 batters.

• • •

The Lady Devils took fourth place in the gold division of the annual East Tennessee Classic played at Johnson City’s Winged Deer park on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25.

UCHS opened tournament pool play with a 8-0 win over Volunteer on Friday. Senior pitcher Hannah Bowen got the shutout win for the Lady Devils, allowing just 6 hits to go along with 6 strikeouts.

UCHS had 13 hits in the game, including 3 by senior Keelie Hall and 2 each by Chavez, Griffith and Lafever. Junior Rylee Stiltner, Griffith and Lafever had 2 RBIs each.

In their second pool play game the Lady Devils earned a 5-1 victory over Grainger, thanks to 6 solid innings of pitching by sophomore Allee Griffith, who had 3 strikeouts, no walks and allowed 4 hits in the win. Padgett came on to pitch an inning in relief. Hawkins led UCHS with 3 hits in the win. Stiltner (2 RBIs) and Bowen had 2 hits each.

The ladies’ bats came alive on Saturday against Chuckey-Doak in their final pool play game of the tournament. UCHS scored 6 runs in the first inning and 14 in the second to defeat the Lady Black Knights 20-0.

N. Griffith hit 2 home runs and had 5 RBIs in the game. Hawkins had 3 hits and an RBI. Chavez (1 RBI), Lafever, Edwards (1 RBI), Stiltner, Padgett (4 RBI), Jaimie Edwards and Bowen had 2 hits each.

Their victories in pool play qualified UCHS for the gold division of tournament play on Saturday where they first faced Dobyns-Bennett.

The Lady Devils found themselves trailing 3-0 after the top half of the first inning. UCHS answered in the bottom of the second with 2 runs, then tied the game with 1 run in the bottom of the third inning.

With the game tied, Dobyns-Bennett took advantage of miscues by the Lady Devils to take a 6-3 lead. UCHS couldn’t answer in the bottom half of the inning and Dobyns-Bennett won the game.

Chavez, N. Griffith (2 RBIs) and Hawkins had 2 hits each for the Lady Devils.

The loss sent the Lady Devils to the consolation game where they fell to Science Hill – a team they had defeated earlier last week – 6-3 to finish in fourth place.

Chavez (1 RBI), Bowen and Hawkins had 2 hits each in the game.

• • •

UCHS played their first Three Rivers Conference game of the season on Tuesday, March 21, against the rival Elizabethton Lady Cyclones. Despite holding the lead for most of the game, the Lady Devils saw the victory slip out of their hands when Elizabethton scored 3 runs on the top of the seventh inning to leave Erwin with a 5-3 win.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the seventh, Lady Cyclone Allison Riddle hit an RBI double to give her team the lead for good.

UCHS scored their 3 runs in the bottom half of the third inning.

Padgett and Bowen (2 RBIs) had 2 hits each for the Lady Devils in the game.

“Elizabethton is a good team and they got some hits at the right time,” Lingerfelt said of the loss.

Following the loss to Elizabethton, the Lady Devils bounced back with a 6-2 win over Sullivan East on March 22 and a 14-1 win over Sullivan North on March 23.

• • •

The Lady Devils will play in the annual Eastman Tournament this week. They will open play on Thursday, March 30, with a pool play game against Gate City, Va., at 5 p.m. at Brickyard 1 in Kingsport. They will play Siegel in pool play later that evening at 8 p.m. at the same location. Pool play will continue for UCHS on Friday, March 31, at 6 p.m. against Karns and at 9 p.m. against Cosby at Domtar 7. The Lady Devils will play their final pool play games at 11:30 a.m., against Tennessee High, and Morristown West, at 2:30 p.m., at Brickyard 4 on Saturday, April 1. Tournament play will begin Saturday evening and continue on Sunday, April 2.

Lingerfelt said he expects the Eastman Tournament to be a good measuring stick for his squad.

“We need to keep improving,” he added. “We haven’t played our best yet. We could have won all three games that we have lost. … We will be playing good teams in the Eastman Tournament. It will be a challenge the whole time.”

UCHS is also scheduled to host Sullivan South at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 4.

Tennis teams fall to Sullivan South in season opener

By Keeli Parkey

The first match of the season ended in a loss for the Blue Devil and Lady Devil tennis teams last week.

Playing at Sullivan South on March 20, the Unicoi County High School teams lost 9-0 to the Rebels. The loss was a learning experience for the teams, according to their head coach.

“I think they learned what they need to work on as individuals such as being more consistent on the serve and return,” head coach Karla Keesecker told The Erwin Record. “As a team, they learned they need to play more outside of practice so that they can continue to improve.  Ultimately, our team goal is to improve with every match and I think we are headed in the right direction.”

Junior Chase Erwin and sophomore Aaron Manzanares turned in solid performances for the Blue Devils against South.

“Even though both lost, their matches were closer than the score reflected,” Keesecker said. “The rest of the boys team played some great points but just came up short on game wins.”

Junior Winter Day-Honeycutt and sophomore Taylor Thomas stood out for the Lady Devils.

“This was Winter’s first match as the number on seed and she showed some great potential,” Keesecker said. “Taylor did a great job in her match. She had the best result of all the girls.”

In the days since the loss, the players have returned to practice and worked to improve, the head coach said.

“The players need to work on point play tactics and putting away shots at the net,” Keesecker said. “We also need to work on being more aggressive while cutting down on our errors. This is something that we have been working on this past week in practice.”

The UCHS teams traveled to Johnson County for a match after The Erwin Record’s press deadline on Tuesday, March 28. They are scheduled to play at Sullivan Central on Monday, April 3, and at Sullivan East on Tuesday, April 4.

Experience returns for Blue Devil baseball team

The 2017 Unicoi County High School Blue Devil varsity baseball team opened the new season with two wins last week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, head coach Chad Gillis, Dylan Putman, Cameron Spires, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Clay Simpson, Troy Podvin, Matthew Hatcher, Brett Strother, assistant coach Brad Tapp and assistant coach Travis Griffith; front row, Hunter Higgins, Justin Laughren, Owen Nicholson, Raben Reed, Caleb Crain, Caleb Wilson, Jay Johnson and Nick Fender. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The 2017 Unicoi County High School Blue Devil varsity baseball team opened the new season with two wins last week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, head coach Chad Gillis, Dylan Putman, Cameron Spires, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Clay Simpson, Troy Podvin, Matthew Hatcher, Brett Strother, assistant coach Brad Tapp and assistant coach Travis Griffith; front row, Hunter Higgins, Justin Laughren, Owen Nicholson, Raben Reed, Caleb Crain, Caleb Wilson, Jay Johnson and Nick Fender. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

An experienced squad returns to the diamond this season for head coach Chad Gillis and the Unicoi County High School varsity baseball team.

“Having 14 returning varsity players is a tremendous plus,” Gillis told The Erwin Record. “All of my seniors have played full-time varsity since they were sophomores. My juniors have played varsity since they were freshman. We have a team loaded with experience and they fully understand the system we run.”

Gillis said his players are working hard to carry on the tradition of UCHS baseball.

“Playing in this program automatically sets the expectations high and the kids know and understand that,” he added. “Many of the players have fathers or other family members that played and won state championships. These guys want a piece of that for themselves.”

The Blue Devils have been working for several weeks to prepare for the 2017 campaign.

“During our offseason we work on our throwing, running and weightlifting programs,” Gillis said. “These typically start in September and run through January. The second week of February we can begin practice and instruction. During this time, we teach our system to the younger players and refresh the returning players. Most of this consists of our defensive setup, plays, pickoffs and situations. “Offensively, we try to work on our swings, bunting effectively, and offensive plays. We also try to scrimmage at least four times before the start of the season.”

Pitching will be a strength of the Blue Devils this season, according to their head coach.

“We are deep on the mound with Shaddon Peavyhouse, Caleb Wilson, Dylan Putman, Clay Simpson, Troy Podvin and Cameron Spires,” Gillis said. “ I trust any of these guys to go into any conference game and compete. … We also have a freshman with very promising talent in Peyton Whitson.”

Blue Devil fans can also expect their team to be strong in other areas.

“Defensively, we should be solid,” Gillis said. “We will have some kids playing in new or multiple positions, but this isn’t something that should be a problem. “We can also hit the ball well and effectively bunt when needed.”

Every Blue Devil will be counted on this season.

“I expect all of my guys to know their role and have a positive impact on and off the field,” Gillis said. “… Offensively, we will rely on everyone to have an impact in each and every game. Dylan Putman and Owen Nicholson are our top returning hitters and have already proven much of the same in 2017.”

Anchoring the outfield will be senior Nick Fender.

“Nick is a tremendous player in center field,” Gillis said. “He is the captain of the outfield and the staff fully believes in his abilities.”

Gillis also said he expects his team to compete throughout the season.

“Every conference game is very important,” he assed. “We really want to win the conference this year and feel we should. As always, Sullivan South and Elizabethton will be very important games to win. We will also play Greeneville, Science Hill, Sevier County and Dobyns-Bennett. All of these games will be a good challenge for us.”

During the 2016 season, the Blue Devils posted an overall record of 17-18 and won the District 1-AA tournament; however, their season came to an end with a 2-1 loss to Chuckey-Doak in the semifinals of the region tournament.

“Looking back on the 2016 season is tough,” Gillis said. “We didn’t play as well defensively as we could have and this cost us a few games in the regular season.  We did get it together and win the district tournament and earn a regional bid.

“In the regional game, we faced a great pitcher and who may have made one bad pitch the entire game. I was not at all disappointed in the effort of our guys after 2016.”

Gillis said his players have used the lessons learned last season to improve.

“From this, we have learned how to win and we proved this against Elizabethton,” he said of his team’s 8-5 conference victory over the Cyclones on March 13. “We had a mental mistake or two and a couple bad calls, but they never gave up and never let the negative effect them. The guys remained calm and just continued to hit and score runs each inning. I am very proud of my guys and that win. I believe we have matured and learned how to deal with adversity.  These two points will make us a better team in 2017.”

Making up the Blue Devil roster this season are: seniors Dylan Putman, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Jay Johnson, Cameron Spires, Justin Laughren and Nick Fender; juniors Owen Nicholson, Hunter Higgins, Matthew Hatcher, Caleb Wilson, Raben Reed, Troy Podvin and Clay Simpson; and sophomores Brett Strother and Caleb Crain. Assistant coaches are Travis Griffith and Brad Tapp.

As of The Erwin Record’s press deadline, the Blue Devils are 3-1. In addition to defeating the Cyclones, they have defeated Madison County twice and lost at Sullivan South on Monday, March 20.

The Blue Devils hosted Johnson County on Tuesday, March 21, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They are scheduled to host Daniel Boone at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 24, travel to Morristown East on Saturday, March 25, at 1 p.m., travel to Sullivan East on Monday, March 27, at 6 p.m. and host Happy Valley on Tuesday, March 28, at 6 p.m.

• • •

Making up the Blue Devil junior varsity squad are: sophomores Gavin Casey, Keaton Casey, Drew Keasling, Garrett Manuel and Austin O’Dell.; and freshmen Caleb Adkins, Ramon Avila, Dakota Bell, Jacob Fenton-Schrek, Brett Lingerfelt, LJ Mitchell, Boone Reed, Darren Soulier, Noah Tilson and Peyton Whitson.

The junior varsity team is coached by Jonathan Kenney and Ben Peterson.

Lady Devils bring depth, power to softball diamond

Inclement weather delayed the start of the 2017 season for the Unicoi County High School Lady Devil varsity softball team. The ladies finally opened the season on Monday, March 20, and action will continue throughout this week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Pat Goddard, Jamie Edwards, Grace Ann Clark, Tanya Chavez, Savannah Delffs, Halie Padgett, Allee Griffith, Rylee Stiltner, Alana Peel, Greta Raby and head coach Grady Lingerfelt; front row, Savannah Lafever, Keelie Hall, Ashley Edwards, Neelee Griffith, Hannah Bowen and Faith Bailey; not pictured, Halie Hawkins. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Inclement weather delayed the start of the 2017 season for the Unicoi County High School Lady Devil varsity softball team. The ladies finally opened the season on Monday, March 20, and action will continue throughout this week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Pat Goddard, Jamie Edwards, Grace Ann Clark, Tanya Chavez, Savannah Delffs, Halie Padgett, Allee Griffith, Rylee Stiltner, Alana Peel, Greta Raby and head coach Grady Lingerfelt; front row, Savannah Lafever, Keelie Hall, Ashley Edwards, Neelee Griffith, Hannah Bowen and Faith Bailey; not pictured, Halie Hawkins. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School varsity softball team is ready to make a run at another state tournament berth.

Coming off a season where they lost in the substate round – a victory away from qualifying for the state – head coach Grady Lingerfelt’s Lady Devils return depth and power for the 2017 season.

“We have a good player at every position,” Lingerfelt told The Erwin Record. “I think we have a good team, we really do.”

Prior to the start of the season, both the varsity and junior varsity squads have performed well during scrimmages, according to the head coach.

“We have had two play days and have done quite well in those,” Lingerfelt said. “The last one at Kiwanis Metro in Johnson City we played Daniel Boone and won that one. We tied Morristown East and played Tennessee High pretty well. During a play day in Bristol we won all the varsity and junior varsity games. Junior varsity has won all their games in the preseason.”

Leading the way for the Lady Devils this season will be junior pitcher Halie Padgett. Lingerfelt said Padgett has been dealing with a shoulder injury for awhile; however, she has battled to get back in the circle.

“She’s been throwing,” Lingerfelt said of Padgett. “She’s thrown in the play day games and has thrown quite well. There aren’t many 6-foot pitchers who can throw it with the accuracy she can.”

Also expected to pitch varsity innings are senior Hannah Bowen and sophomore Allee Griffith.

“Both Hannah and Allee are capable of winning,” Lingerfelt said.

After missing the 2016 season due to injury, senior Keelie Hall returns to catch for the Lady Devils.

“She is a very good catcher,” Lingerfelt said.

Rounding out the infield are: senior and Milligan College-signee Neelee Griffith at first base; senior Ashley Edwards at second base; junior Rylee Stiltner and shortstop; and senior Savannah Lafever at third base.

“All of our infielders have experience and are very good players,” Lingerfelt said. “Neelee, Ashley, Rylee and Savannah are all solid at their positions.”

The Lady Devils’ solid defense doesn’t stop in the infield. Three athletic players – junior Tanya Chavez, sophomore Halie Hawkins and senior Faith Bailey – make up the outfield this season.

“All the outfielders have speed and can go get the ball,” Lingerfelt said. “They have accurate arms as well.

“We should be very strong defensively this season.”

Lady Devil fans can also expect a varsity squad that can score a lot of runs, according to Lingerfelt. During their play days, the majority of Lady Devils have hit at least one home run.

“We have a lot of power,” Lingerfelt said. “We are very strong offensively.”

UCHS will need both its solid offense and defense this season. In conference play, the Lady Devils will again be challenged by a good Elizabethton team.

“Elizabethton is very good, too,” Lingerfelt said. “They have about everyone back.”

The Lady Cyclones won the conference regular season last year. The Lady Devils bounced back in the postseason to win the District 1-AA title, then Elizabethton took the Region 1-AA crown. This sent the Lady Devils to Christian Academy of Knoxville where they lost in the substate round, ending the 2016 season.

“We are going to have to come ready to play every game,” Lingerfelt said of the 2017 season, “but, I feel good about our chances.”

The varsity squad includes: seniors Savannah Lafever, Keelie Hall, Ashley Edwards, Neelee Griffith, Hannah Bowen and Faith Bailey; juniors Tanya Chavez, Grace Ann Clark, Savannah Delffs, Jamie Edwards, Halie Padgett, Alana Peel, Greta Raby and Rylee Stiltner; and sophomores Halie Hawkins and Allee Griffith.

Pat Goddard will serve as an assistant coach with the varsity team this season.

The Lady Devils opened the 2017 season on Monday, March 20, with an 8-3 victory over Science Hill.

They hosted Elizabethton on Tuesday, March 21, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They are scheduled to host Sullivan East at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, and travel to Sullivan North for a game at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 23.

They will also play in the East Tennessee Classic on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25.

• • •

A group of freshmen and sophomores make up the 2017 Lady Devil junior varsity softball team. They are: sophomores Hope Bailey, Madison Duncan, Allee Griffith, Emma Kelly, Carly Kinsler, Chloe Powers, Sydney Rogers and Cassie Selvage; and freshmen Kiley Bennett, Bella Bogart, Gabby Davis, Abbie Grindstaff, Kate Hollenbeck, Kaylee Lamb, Kaylia Street and Ashtan Vance.

The junior varsity team is coached by Ray Webb and Bettina Chirica.

The squad won the annual BlueTech Tournament played at the UCHS field over the weekend.

Soccer team ready to build on success

The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil soccer team opened the 2017 season this week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, manager Jose Reynoso, Christian Leon, Samuel Murillo, Tyler Whitson, Donnie Metcalf, Juan Ramirez, Chris Andrade, Leroy Valdez, Daniel Meza, Jakob Carver and head coach Justin Ciralsky; front row, RJ Phillips, Juan Ponce, Derek Andrade, John Andrade, Gerardo Batrez, Jose Ortiz, Martin Porras, Demicio Rodriquez, Armando Saldana and Jordan Hensley; not pictured, Carlos Delgado. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil soccer team opened the 2017 season this week. The team includes, pictured from left, back row, manager Jose Reynoso, Christian Leon, Samuel Murillo, Tyler Whitson, Donnie Metcalf, Juan Ramirez, Chris Andrade, Leroy Valdez, Daniel Meza, Jakob Carver and head coach Justin Ciralsky; front row, RJ Phillips, Juan Ponce, Derek Andrade, John Andrade, Gerardo Batrez, Jose Ortiz, Martin Porras, Demicio Rodriquez, Armando Saldana and Jordan Hensley; not pictured, Carlos Delgado. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

With a season under their belts, the Blue Devils are ready to build on the success of 2016.

During its inaugural season the Unicoi County High School boys soccer team posted a record of 9-7-1, finished fourth in league play and advanced to the quarterfinals of the District 1-A/AA tournament.

“Now that we have a season under our belt, the boys have some experience and know what to expect,” head coach Justin Ciralsky told The Erwin Record. “We also know what it will take to reach our goals.”

One benefit the 2017 team will have that last year’s squad did not is home field advantage, according to the head coach.

“One of the biggest obstacles we had last year was playing every game away,” Ciralsky said. “We are grateful to have seven home games this year and we are planning on putting on some great games for our home fans. Starting a program is difficult, but the school and community have surrounded us and helped us go forward.”

The Blue Devils will play their home games on the field of the UCHS track on Mohawk Drive in Erwin.

The preseason has seen the UCHS players working hard to improve on last season’s results.

“They have worked incredibly hard during the preseason,” Ciralsky said of his players “They were focused and dedicated to conditioning and that will help prepare us for a tough season ahead.”

A key factor in the Blue Devils’ success will be leadership from its senior members: RJ Phillips, Carlos Delgado, Christian Leon, Samuel Murillo, Jose Ortiz, Derek Andrade, Donnie Metcalf, Tyler Whitson and Gerardo Batrez.

“We have strong senior leadership this year,” Ciralsky said. “They have helped keep the team motivated and focused on our goal for the season. We want to win  the conference and make it to the state tournament.”

“We expect strong play from senior keeper RJ Phillips, Christian Leon in the back, Sam Murillo in the midfield, and Jose Ortiz up top,” the head coach continued. “Honestly, we have a strong team and we are holding our expectations high for them.”

Conference games will be important for UCHS this season, Ciralsky said.

“We are looking forward to playing Elizabethton and (Sullivan) South this year,” he added. “Each of them beat us last season and we have worked hard to overcome our weaknesses of last season.”

The Blue Devils are scheduled to travel to Elizabethton on Thursday, March 23, and host Sullivan South on April 11.

The Blue Devil squad also includes: juniors Chris Andrade, Daniel Meza, Leroy Valdez, Jakob Carver; sophomores Juan Ramirez, Juan Ponce, Martin Porras, John Andrade, Demicio Rodriguez, Jordan Hensley; and freshman Armando Saldana.

• • •

The Blue Devils took on Union High School from Virginia on Monday, March 20 in Erwin. The Blue Devils got on the scoreboard early in the game and took a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal by Ortiz into the second half.

Ortiz scored again for the Blue Devils in the second half. Union also got on the scoreboard, but the Blue Devils kept them in check from there. UCHS won the game 2-1.

UCHS is scheduled to participate in a tournament at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport in the Jon Metcalf Highland Cup on Friday, March 24, and Saturday, March 25.

The Blue Devils will open tournament play on Friday against Sullivan Central at 6 p.m. With a win, they will play in the semifinals at 10 a.m. on Saturday against the winner of the Morristown West/Tennessee High match; a loss will send the Blue Devils to a losers’ bracket game at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The Blue Devils are also scheduled to face University High in Johnson City at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30.

Keesecker takes over tennis program

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil tennis team includes, pictured from left, head coach Karla Keesecker, Trent Treadway, Aaron Manzanares, Trey Hatcher, Daniel Campbell, Be Hensley and Chase Erwin.; not pictured Noah Starnes and assistant coach Junia Gindlesperger. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil tennis team includes, pictured from left, head coach Karla Keesecker, Trent Treadway, Aaron Manzanares, Trey Hatcher, Daniel Campbell, Be Hensley and Chase Erwin.; not pictured Noah Starnes and assistant coach Junia Gindlesperger. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County High School Lady Devil tennis team includes, pictured from left, head coach Karla Keesecker, Taylor Thomas, Abigail Hensley, Katlyn Higgins, Katherine Altemose, Winter Day-Honeycutt, Natalia Hernandez and Carson Moore; not pictured Brandolyn Thomas and assistant coach Junia Gindlesperger. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County High School Lady Devil tennis team includes, pictured from left, head coach Karla Keesecker, Taylor Thomas, Abigail Hensley, Katlyn Higgins, Katherine Altemose, Winter Day-Honeycutt, Natalia Hernandez and Carson Moore; not pictured Brandolyn Thomas and assistant coach Junia Gindlesperger. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Her players’ positive attitudes have new head coach Karla Keesecker looking forward to the 2017 tennis season.

“It’s exciting to take over the tennis program,” Keesecker told The Erwin Record. “I have a passion for the game of tennis and I love sharing the game with new players. I worked for three years as an assistant, but this won’t be my first time as a head coach. I was the head coach at Sullivan North High School before I came to work at UCHS. So, I’m trying to draw from that previous experience and my experience as an assistant.”

Keesecker said Unicoi County High School tennis players have worked hard during the preseason to prepare for the 2017 schedule.

“The girls and boys teams attended clinics with the teaching pros at Johnson City Country Club during the off season,” she said. “They have been a huge help to the team and I’m excited to see how this will translate to match play as we begin our season.”

Keesecker also said her players’ come to the courts ready to improve.

“I think the strength of our team is in our attitude,” she said. “The team has been willing to try new things this year and they have been on board with a new ideas. They are positive and always willing to learn.”

For the Blue Devils’, lone senior Trent Treadway is expected to lead the way.

“On the boys side, I’m looking for Trent Treadway to make an impact this season,” Keesecker said. “He is the only senior and the players will be looking to him for leadership and experience.

“I’m also excited to see how Chase Erwin and Daniel Campbell do this season. They have improved since last year and I think this will be a breakout season for them. … Aaron Manzanares is one of the returning players from last year. I’m really proud of the way he has already improved this season and I’m looking forward to his continued growth.”

Three new players – Trey Hatcher, Noah Starnes and Benjamin Hensley – have joined the team for the 2017 season.

“I’m so excited to see how much they learn and experience this season,” Keesecker said.

It’s always fun to see how far a player goes from the beginning of the season to the end.”

Leading the charge for the Lady Devils will be junior Winter Day-Honeycutt.

“She is going from the sixth seed last year to the number-one seed this year,” Keesecker said. “She has worked extremely hard in the off season and I’m excited to see her growth this season.”

Three returning players are also expected to make an impact this season.

“I’m also looking forward to seeing how Carson Moore, Abby Hensley and Taylor Thomas do this season,” Keesecker said. “I feel they gained a lot of experience last year.”

New players have also joined the program.

“The next player to watch for this season is Katlyn Higgins,” Keesecker said. “She is a freshman and I feel she will make an impact once she has some experience under her belt. The rest of our team are beginners to tennis and I will be looking forward to seeing their growth. Those ladies are Katherine Altemose, Natalia Hernandez and Brandolyn Thomas.”

Junia Gindlesperger will be the program’s assistant coach this season.

The Blue Devils and Lady Devils tennis teams traveled to Sullivan South on Monday, March 20.

The Lady Devils were scheduled to host Happy Valley on Tuesday, March 21, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

Both teams will go back on the road on Tuesday, March 28, at Johnson County.

Coach sees potential in Blue Devils, Lady Devils

By Keeli Parkey

The 2017 Unicoi County High School Blue Devil and Lady Devil track teams opened the new season with a meet at Science Hill on Monday, March 20. The team members are, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Thad Higgins, John Campbell, Nicholas Lynch, Andrew Bowen, Cameron Higgins, Andrew Edwards and head coach Megan Davis; middle row, Alex Carter, Natalia Mendoza, Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Kaitlyn Tilson and Yvette Galloway; front row, Bernice Luquin, Cheyenne Wilson, Stephanie Wisse and Daniela Martinez. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The 2017 Unicoi County High School Blue Devil and Lady Devil track teams opened the new season with a meet at Science Hill on Monday, March 20. The team members are, pictured from left, back row, assistant coach Thad Higgins, John Campbell, Nicholas Lynch, Andrew Bowen, Cameron Higgins, Andrew Edwards and head coach Megan Davis; middle row, Alex Carter, Natalia Mendoza, Megan Todd, Jillian Taylor, Kaitlyn Tilson and Yvette Galloway; front row, Bernice Luquin, Cheyenne Wilson, Stephanie Wisse and Daniela Martinez. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

What the 2017 Unicoi County High School track teams lack in quantity, they make up for in quality.

Only five Blue Devils and 11 Lady Devils are part of the program this season, but head coach Megan Davis sees a lot of potential in her athletes.

“Individually, we have a lot of opportunities,” Davis told The Erwin Record. “All of them individually have chances to do big things for themselves and compete at a high level.”

During the preseason, Davis saw her teams ready to prepare for meets.

“Our kids have put in a lot of work preparing for the season,” she said. “We have a smaller team, so we have asked them to do different things this year. We have done more individualized workouts.

“The athletes are being asked to fill different roles,” Davis continued. “They are being taken out of their comfort zones a lot. I think that has been and will be beneficial for us. It is getting them into areas where they can thrive.”

Lady Devil Stephanie Wisse, who finished in fourth place in the 100-meter hurdles at the state meet in 2016, returns for her senior season, Davis said.

“She only started running that event last season,” the head coach said. “We were happy that she did so well in a new event, but we think she can do even better this season. This year, she wants to make it to state in multiple events.”

Wisse will also compete in the 100- and 200-meter sprints, as well as the 300-meter hurdles.

“Last year we ran Stephanie in four events in every meet and she would finish first in every event,” Davis said. “She is a good athlete and can compete in many events. She has been willing to try new events this season.”

Senior thrower Cameron Higgins, a Milligan College-signee, will lead the Blue Devil squad this season. Higgins throws both discus and shot for the team.

“Cameron is coming back from a knee injury he suffered during football season,” Davis said. “He has been putting in a lot of work, not to just get himself healthy but also to qualify for state.”

Higgins made it to the sectional round each of the last two seasons and narrowly missed out on a state berth.

Seniors Andrew Bowen and Andrew Edwards are also expected to contribute this season. Bowen is a pole vaulter who Davis said has a chance to qualify for the state meet. Edwards is a solid thrower who is expected to make an impact this season. Both seniors will also run some events for the squad.

Sophomore John Campbell will handle distance running for the Blue Devils.

“He should be big for us this year,” Davis said.

New to the team is freshman Nicholas Lynch.

“We hope to get him in the high jump and long jump,” Davis said. “He will also run the 400 for us.”

Junior Megan Todd will be a distance runner for the Lady Devils. Todd has competed at the state level in cross country and Davis sees that success carrying over to the track season.

“We are expecting big things out of her this season,” she added. “We want to see her compete at the state level for track.”

The Lady Devils’ 4×800-meter team is expected to defend the 2016 conference title. Making up the team are junior Kaitlyn Tilson, junior Jillian Taylor, freshman Cheyenne Wilson and Todd.

“They are a good team,” Davis said. “State isn’t out of the question for them.”

Four-year senior Daniela Martinez also returns for the Lady Devils. Martinez throws the shot put and discus and runs the 400-meter.

“She is a great leader,” Davis said. “She is the epitome of a teammate. She works hard and supports her teammates.”

Four girls will compete in the pole vault event this season. They are senior Yvette Galloway, junior Alex Carter, freshman Bernice Luquin and sophomore Halie Hawkins.

“Pole vault is a focus of ours,” Davis said. “All the girls are working hard on this event.”

Sophomore Natalia Mendoza has battled injury so far this season, Davis said.

“She is a hard worker and we can’t wait to have her back,” Davis added.

Thad Higgins will be an assistant coach with the program this season.

Loss ends season for Lady Devils

Kenedy King drives to the hoop during the Lady Devils’ season-ending loss at Grainger on Friday, Feb. 24. King, a junior guard for the Lady Devils, scored 12 points for UCHS. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

Kenedy King drives to the hoop during the Lady Devils’ season-ending loss at Grainger on Friday, Feb. 24. King, a junior guard for the Lady Devils, scored 12 points for UCHS. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

Trailing by 4 points with 30 seconds left to play last week, the Unicoi County High School girls varsity basketball team (11-20) didn’t make the plays necessary to advance in tournament play.

The Lady Devils lost, 46-42, at Grainger on Friday, Feb. 24, which ended their 2016-17 season in the first round of the Region 1-AA tournament.

“We did a great job defensively,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said. “We held them way below their season average points per game.”

After getting off to a slow start, the Lady Devils took a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter over the home-standing Lady Grizzlies. Unfortunately for the Lady Devils, Grainger’s matchup zone defense, which troubled the UCHS at moments during the game, clamped down in the second quarter and held them to just 5 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by sophomore guard Chloe Powers.

“We cut through their matchup zone and got the ball where we wanted it, but in the second quarter we had several offensive possessions where we turned it over and didn’t even get a shot off,” King said. “You can’t do that against a caliber team and it not hurt you.”

Fortunately for the Lady Devils, their defensive effort kept them in the game in the first half. The Lady Grizzlies took a 23-14 lead into halftime.

UCHS couldn’t mount a comeback in the third quarter, getting outscored 10-8 in the frame, and trailed 33-22 going into the fourth quarter. It was then that the Lady Devils began to put together a rally to save their season.

The teams traded points for a 37-26 lead with six minutes to play. The Lady Devils then went on a 9-2 run thanks to 4 points by Kenedy King, 3 by Kaylee Hendrickson and 2 by Neelee Griffith to cut the Grainger lead to 4 points, 39-35, with 3:35 to play.

The Lady Grizzlies then got a 3-point play from Kaitlin Simon for a 42-37 lead. UCHS answered right back in transition with Hendrickson found Halie Padgett in the paint for two points.

Karli Combs then answered for Grainger before Hendrickson hit a 3-pointer for a 44-40 score with 1:25 to play. Following a missed free throw, Griffith scored 2 points after grabbing an offensive rebound to put her team within 2 points, 44-42.

Combs was then fouled and then hit 2 free throws for a 46-42 score.

With 31.6 seconds on the clock, Grainger’s defense kept the Lady Devils from getting a shot at the goal until there was 1.1 seconds to play and forced a miss to hold on for the win.

Halie Padget led the Lady Devils in scoring at Grainger with 13 points; she also had 7 rebounds. Kenedy King scored 12 points (3 3-pointers) and had 5 rebounds. Kaylee Henrickson scored 8 points (2 3-pointers), 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Neelee Griffith had 6 points, 9 rebounds, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Chloe Powers scored 3 points (1 3-pointer).

Graduating from the Lady Devil program will be seniors Neelee Griffith and Ashley Edwards.

King said she was proud of her team’s continued development throughout the season.

“We continued to improve as the season progressed and we finished strong,” she added. “The growth we showed makes me excited and optimistic for our future.”

• • •

With the defeat over UCHS, Grainger advanced to the region semifinals where they defeated Happy Valley, 70-36, on Monday, Feb. 26. The Lady Grizzlies will face Greeneville, who also defeated Chuckey-Doak 53-52 in the semifinals on Monday, in the region championship game at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, in Erwin. Both Grainger and Greeneville have qualified for the substate round to be played on Saturday, March 4.

Devils advance in region, fall in district title game

Senior Blue Devil guard Dylan Putman looks for an opening in Cumberland Gap’s defense during the Blue Devils’ 69-51 victory in Erwin in the first round on the Region 1-AA tournament. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

Senior Blue Devil guard Dylan Putman looks for an opening in Cumberland Gap’s defense during the Blue Devils’ 69-51 victory in Erwin in the first round on the Region 1-AA tournament. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

In a do-or-die game, the Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team (15-11) did.

The Blue Devils faced Cumberland Gap in the opening game of the Region 1-AA tournament in Erwin on Saturday, Feb. 25, and earned a commanding 69-51 victory to advance to the tournament semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at UCHS.

“It feels good to get a win in the region tournament,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said. “I’m proud of our guys for stepping up in a big game and getting a win.”

Ten first-quarter points by junior guard Trevor Hensley and 5 by junior post Troy Podvin sparked UCHS to a 15-6 lead going into the second quarter on Saturday. Two 3-pointers by Hensley and 4 points by junior post Clay Simpson gave the Blue Devils a commanding 25-10 lead with just over 4 minutes to play in the half. The teams played almost even basketball the rest of the half and UCHS took a 39-25 lead into the break.

The Blue Devils’ lead reached 18 points, 47-29, following a basket by senior Dylan Putman. UCHS then appeared to go into cruise control, allowing Cumberland Gap to make a run and get back into the game.

“Cumberland Gap is a very scrappy team,” Smith said. “I thought they outplayed us in the second half, but we were able to maintain a decent lead until the fourth quarter.”

Trailing by 12, 53-41, at the start of the fourth, Cumberland Gap then went on a 10-4 run, cutting the deficit to a manageable 6 points, 57-51 with 5 minutes to play.

The Blue Devils then turned the tide and closed the game on a 12-0 run to win 69-51.

Trevor Hensley scored 26 points (2 3-pointers) to go along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists to lead UCHS. Troy Podvin just missed out on a double-double with 17 points (3 3-pointers) and 9 rebounds. Dylan Putman scored 13 points (1 3-pointer) and had 4 rebounds. Clay Simpson scored 8 and had 7 rebounds. Chase McNabb scored 4 points (1 3-pointer). Michael Howell scored 1 point and had 6 rebounds.

• • •

A district title slipped out of the hands of the Blue Devils in Erwin on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Leading 55-49 with less than two minutes to play, UCHS saw East go to the free throw line 10 times, making 9, during that stretch to stun the home-standing Blue Devils and win the championship game, 58-57.

“I thought we played well defensively and held their two best scorers below their scoring averages,” Smith said of his team’s overall effort. “We did a good job on that end of the floor.”

Things began to unravel for UCHS following a technical foul call against the Blue Devils with the score at 55-49 with 1:34 to play. The Patriots converted 1 of the technical free throws and hit 2 personal foul free throws for a 55-52 UCHS lead. On their ensuing possession, Patriot Cole Green was fouled and converted 2 more free throws for a 55-54 score.

The Blue Devils got the ball to Hensley on their next possession. Hensley was fouled with 32 seconds to play and made both free throws for a 57-54 Blue Devil lead. Patriot Gavin Grubb was fouled with 21 seconds to play and hit both free throws, giving UCHS the ball up 57-56.

The Blue Devils then missed the front end of the one-and-one opportunity. East rushed the ball down the court, but missed on a shot attempt. The ball bounced out of bounds and was given to the Patriots under their basket with 3.2 seconds to play.

Before the ball was inbounded, a foul was called against the Blue Devils, sending Micah Ellison to the line for 2 free throws, which he converted, putting his team ahead 58-57.

Because the foul on Ellison was called before the ball was inbounded, the Blue Devils had 3.2 seconds to go the length of the floor to score. They quickly threw it into Putman who dribbled up the left side of the floor and let a shot fly from near halfcourt. The shot had a chance to go in, but bounced off the back of the rim and East held on for the win.

“Dylan makes shots like that all the time in practice and has hit them in games,” Smith said. “I thought the one he shot at the buzzer was going in. It looked good.”

Podvin led the Blue Devils with 20 points (1 3-pointer) and 6 rebounds. Hensley scored 11 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. Putman scored 10 points (2 3-pointers). Simpson scored 6 and had 5 rebounds. McNabb scored 6 (2 3-pointers) and Brett Strother scored 4.

Following the championship game, Podvin, Hensley and Putman were named to the all-tournament team.

Their second-place finish in the district setup the Blue Devils’ opening round matchup with Cumberland Gap on Feb. 25.

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.