From Staff Reports
The Unicoi County High School boys basketball team (10-7, 4-0) kept its unbeaten streak in league play alive last week thanks to a strong defensive effort and balanced scoring.
The Blue Devils led the Sullivan East Patriots 13-11 at the end of the first quarter on Friday, Jan. 5, in Erwin. They took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Patriots by 8 points to lead 32-22 at halftime.
With East sending two players to defend Blue Devil Trevor Hensley most of the first half, other Blue Devil guards, including Brock Thompson, Brett Lingerfelt and Gavin Casey, stepped up and scored important points for the team.
“It was big that we had players like Brock, Brett and Gavin hit shots for us,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said. “That helped open things up for us offensively because they were running two players at Trevor during the first half. Because those guys made shots, East couldn’t double-team Trevor as much in the second half. He only had 5 points in the first half, then had 16 points in the second half because things had opened up.”
Troy Podvin got the Blue Devils off on the right foot in the second half with an offensive rebound and putback for a 34-22 score. The Patriots then responded with an 8-0 run to trail by only 4 points, 34-30, with 5 minutes to play in the quarter. Following a timeout by Smith, the Blue Devils closed the quarter on a 16-2 run on baskets by Hensley, Lingerfelt, Podvin and Casey and led 50-32 going into the fourth quarter.
Two consecutive three-pointers by Hensley gave UCHS a 56-32 lead and total control of the game. The Blue Devils then cruised to a 65-43 conference win.
“I felt like we did a really good job defensively on their main guys,” Smith said. “We held their leading scoring to 5 points. That was key for us to be able to get the win.”
Hensley scored 21 points and had 4 assists. Prior to the game, he was recognized on the court for breaking the program’s scoring record. Hensley broke the record while the Blue Devils played in the Cleveland Holiday Tournament Powered by Under Armour during the last week of December.
Thompson scored 14. Lingerfelt scored 9. Casey scored 7. Podvin scored 7 and had 15 rebounds. Danny Lowery scored 4. Nicholas Lynch scored 2. Brett Strother scored 1.
As of The Erwin Record’s press deadline, the Blue Devils are the only unbeaten team in the Three Rivers Conference at 4-0. Sullivan Central is 3-1; East is 2-1; Elizabethton is 2-2; Johnson County is 1-3; and Happy Valley and Sullivan South are both 0-3.
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Trailing Science Hill by 17 points, 53-36, early in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils went on a major run to get themselves back into a non-conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 2.
UCHS rattled off 13 unanswered points on baskets by Podvin, Hensley and Thompson, to trail by only 4 points, 53-49, late in the quarter.
“I am proud of our guys for fighting their way back into the game,” Smith said.
This, however, would be as close as they would get. With the ball and down by only 4, a Blue Devil turnover led to a breakaway layup for the Hilltoppers, which was converted. To make matters worse, an intentional foul against UCHS was called, which gave Science Hill a free throw and another possession. Just like that the Hilltoppers held a 56-51 lead and regained control of the game.
Science Hill made 7-8 free throws the rest of the way to seal the 63-53 win.
Hensley scored 14 points and had 9 rebounds. Podvin scored 12 and had 7 rebounds. Thompson scored 12. Casey scored 8. Lowery scored 4. Lingerfelt scored 3.
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The Blue Devils faced Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 9, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They are scheduled to travel to Sullivan Central on Friday, Jan. 12, and to Hampton on Monday, Jan. 15. The junior varsity team will take the court at 5 p.m. each day; the varsity squad will play at 8 p.m.
The Blue Devils will host David Crockett on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in Erwin with the junior varsity team playing at 6:30 p.m. and the varsity playing at 8 p.m.