Sophomore guard Ashtan Vance looks to an open teammate after driving to the goal against Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 26, at the Devils’ Den. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County High School girls basketball team (14-8, 6-3) added one win and one loss to their Three Rivers Conference record last week. As the season winds down, the team remains in the top half of the league and is competing for a high seed in the upcoming District 1-AA tournament, which will be played at Elizabethton High School in the second week of February.

On Friday, Jan. 26, the Lady Devils raced out to an early double-digit lead and never looked back en route to a 64-35 victory over Johnson County at the Devils’ Den in Erwin. Sparking the team’s early run was an aggressive full-court defense. The team had 17 steals for the game.

“We played very hard defensively early in the game,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said. “The girls really got after it and we forced a lot of turnovers that led to easy baskets for us.”

UCHS led 30-15 at the break, which included 16 of sophomore Kaitlin Bailey’s game-high 19 points, then scored 21 points in the third quarter to put the game completely out of reach of the Lady Longhorns. Freshman guard Tenley Holt scored 9 points in the quarter to spark UCHS off the bench.

“We played with a deep rotation this game and it was good to see everyone come in and contribute,” King said. “I’m proud of our effort.”

Bailey added four rebounds and 3 steals to go along with her 19 points. Halie Padgett had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Holt scored 13 with 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Allee Griffith scored 10 and had 5 rebounds. Chloe Power scored 4. Kaylee Hendrickson scored 2 and had 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Leah Edney scored 2.

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Scoring only 2 points in the first quarter and only 4 in the third led to an insurmountable deficit for the Lady Devils at home against Sullivan South on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

“We never got into a flow offensively. King said. “We struggled shooting the ball, especially from three-point range.”

Of the 20 three-pointers the team attempted, the Lady Devils hit only 3 and with South playing a zone defense that equaled trouble for UCHS.

Despite scoring only 2 points in the opening frame, the Lady Devils trailed only 8-2 going into the second quarter. Kenedy King scored 5 of the team’s 10 points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer at the buzzer to bring UCHS within 3 points, 15-12, at halftime.

The Lady Devils couldn’t keep that momentum going into the third quarter on either end of the floor. UCHS made only one basket – by Bailey – and hit 2 free throws – one by Rachel Lynch, the other by Griffith – in the frame. At the same time, South’s offense got on a roll and scored 20 points. The Lady Rebels held a 35-16 lead at the end of the third.

The Lady Devils weren’t going to go down without a fight. The team began pressing and forced turnovers to get baskets and cut South’s lead to single digits in the fourth quarter, but they eventually ran out of time. The Lady Rebels won the game, 44-35.

Bailey led the Lady Devils with 10 points, 6 steals and 5 rebounds. King scored 8 and had 3 steals. Hendrickson scored 4 and had 4 steals and 3 assists. Ashtan Vance and Griffith scored 3 each. Holt, Powers and Padgett each scored 2.

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As of The Erwin Record’s press deadline, Sullivan Central sits at the top of the conference standings with an 8-1 record. The remaining teams and their records are: Unicoi County at 6-3; Sullivan South at 3-3; Elizabethton at 3-4; Sullivan East at 3-4; Johnson County at 2-5; and Happy Valley at 0-5.

UCHS traveled to Sullivan East on Tuesday, Jan. 30, for conference games after the press deadline for this issue. The Lady Devils’ remaining conference games include hosting Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 2, and hosting Central on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The team will wrap up the regular season with a non-conference game against Cloudland on Saturday, Feb. 10. Junior varsity games will be played at 3:30 p.m.; the varsity team will play at 6:30 p.m. on those days. The team will honor its senior members following the Cloudland game on Feb. 10.