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).
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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.
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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).
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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.