Kenedy King dribbles by a Lady Cyclone during the Lady Devils’ victory last week. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School girls basketball team kept itself near the top of the Three Rivers Conference standings thanks to two victories last week.

First, the Lady Devils (16-8, 8-3) held off a late rally by the Sullivan East Lady Patriots on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Then, on Friday, Feb. 2, the ladies came from behind to defeat the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones in Erwin.

“In both games I thought bench play was huge,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said.

At Sullivan East, the Lady Devils took a 30-23 lead into halftime, thanks in part to 12 first half points by sophomore Kaitlin Bailey.

In the third quarter, foul trouble bit the Lady Devils as Bailey and fellow sophomore Ashtan Vance both fouled out of the game. However, after going scoreless in the first half, senior post Halie Padgett came alive in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her game-high 23 points. UCHS held a 46-39 lead going into the final eight minutes of the game.

An 8-4 run in the first two minutes of the quarter gave the Lady Devils a double-digit lead, 54-43. However, over the next three minutes the Lady Patriots fought their way back into the game with a 12-4 run. UCHS led 58-55 with 2:20 to play in the game.

Missed shots by East and turnovers by the Lady Devils kept either team off the scoreboard until Padgett hit two free throws with 1:36 to go. East missed a three-pointer and Padgett was fouled again. She hit one before scoring on a layup on the Lady Devils’ next possession for a 63-55 advantage for UCHS.

East then scored and fouled Lady Devil freshman guard Tenley Holt, who hit one from the charity stripe for a 64-57 score with 29 seconds to play. East then scored again and Holt was fouled and hit one for a 65-59 score with 17 seconds to play. The Lady Patriots scored their final basket of the game with 3 seconds to go. Junior guard Kaylee Hendrickson was then fouled and hit one free throw for the final score of 66-61.

“Tenley came in against East after Kaitlin and Ashtan fouled out and handled the ball and converted free throws like a mature veteran and not a freshman,” King said.

In addition to her 23 points, Padgett had 6 rebounds. Bailey scored 14 and had 6 rebounds. Henrickson scored 11 and had 3 assists. Holt scored 7 and had 3 rebounds. Junior Chloe Powers scored 5 and had 5 assists. Vance scored 2 and junior Allee Griffith scored 2.

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Foul trouble in the first three quarters kept the Lady Devil offense from getting into any flow against Elizabethton.

“The bench held it together for us for three quarters,” King said.

UCHS trailed 20-17 at halftime, then fought back to tie the game at 30 going into the fourth quarter. During the final eight minutes the team was able to put its usual rotation on the floor and make a run to win the game. In the quarter Powers hit a three-pointer and two free throws, Padgett scored 4 points and Bailey scored 8 points, including free throws that sealed the 47-41 victory.

“I felt confident that when we could get our rotation of six in the fourth that we could pull away some,” King said.

Bailey had 16 points and 5 rebounds in the win. Powers scored 14. Padgett had 7 points and 9 rebounds. Holt scored 5. Vance scored 4. Griffith scored 1.

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The Lady Devils hosted Sullivan Central on Tuesday, Feb. 6, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. Going into the game, Central held the league’s top spot with a 9-1 record. The remaining standings were: Unicoi County at 8-3; Sullivan South at 5-3; Sullivan East at 4-6; Elizabethton at 4-7; Johnson County at 3-6; and Happy Valley at 1-8.

League play will conclude this week and the District 1-AA tournament will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Elizabethton. Seeds for the tournament will be determined by this week’s results.

The Lady Devils will end the regular season with a non-conference game against Cloudland in Erwin on Saturday, Feb. 10. The junior varsity is scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m. with the varsity scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. The team will also honor its senior members that evening.