From Staff Reports
It is said that all good things must come to an end. That’s true in life and it’s true in sports. For the Unicoi County High School boys basketball team (15-9, 8-1) the good thing that recently came to an end was their unbeaten streak in the Three Rivers Conference this season.
In another battle between two familiar conference rivals, the Johnson County Longhorns avenged a previous loss to the Blue Devils with a 51-46 victory over UCHS in Erwin on Friday, Jan. 26.
“We are disappointed in the loss,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “We want to be the top seed going into the district tournament and that loss puts us closer to the rest of the pack. Johnson County outplayed us late in the game. They played like they wanted that win more.”
The Longhorns controlled the pace of the game through most of the contest and forced the Blue Devils, who typically prefer to played a fast-paced game, play in the halfcourt and limited the number of possessions the UCHS offense had.
“They did a good job on us defensively and slowed us down,” Smith said. “They also had 6 more offensive rebounds and fewer turnovers than we did, which gave them more possessions.”
UCHS held a 23-21 lead at halftime and a 35-33 lead at the end of the third.
In the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands several times before Johnson County grabbed an offensive rebound, converted the putback got a three-point play to take a 42-40 lead and control of the game. Playing from behind, the Blue Devils were forced to foul and the Longhorns took advantage.
“They made their free throws down the stretch,” Smith said. “They did a good job throughout the game. They executed their game plan and made plays when they needed them.”
Trevor Hensley led the Blue Devils in scoring with 12 points and 5 assists. Brock Thompson scored 9. Gavin Casey scored 8 and had 6 rebounds. Troy Podvin scored 7 and had 5 rebounds. Danny Lowery scored 6 and had 3 rebounds. Brett Lingerfelt and Brett Strother scored 2 points each.
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The Blue Devils bounced back from the loss to Johnson County with a 71-64 victory over David Crockett on Saturday, Jan. 27, in Erwin.
Things didn’t start so well for UCHS as Smith’s team found themselves down 12-2 to the visiting Pioneers. The Blue Devils settled down as the first quarter went on and cut the lead in half to trail 18-12 going into the second quarter.
“They shot well in the first quarter,” Smith said. We didn’t do a good job finding their shooters in the first quarter. Once we started playing better defensively, we were able to get back in the game. We also rebounded well against a bigger, more athletic Crockett team.”
In the second and third quarters, the Blue Devils and Pioneers battled to a draw and went into the fourth quarter tied at 52. Down the stretch, it was the Blue Devils who made the plays they needed to earn a 71-64 victory.
“I was pleased that we were able to fight and get a win after getting down early,” Smith said. “I’m proud of the guys for coming back to get a win after the loss the night before.”
Hensley scored 23 to go along with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Podvin scored 20 and had 8 rebounds. Thompson scored 13 and had 5 assists. Austin O’Dell scored 5. Lingerfelt scored 4. Ty Thelen, Casey and Strother scored 2 points each.
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The Blue Devils took early control of their conference contest against Sullivan South in Erwin on Tuesday, Jan. 23, leading 17-7 after the first quarter and 29-18 at halftime.
“We did a good job defensively and converted on their turnovers to take the lead early,” Smith said.
South made a run in the third quarter, outscoring the Blue Devils 20-15 to trail by only 6 points, 44-38 going into the final frame. UCHS stopped that run in the fourth and went on one of their own, outscoring South 24-9 in the quarter to win the game, 68-47.
“We want to win the conference and winning over South put us one step closer to doing that,” Smith also said.
Hensley scored 30 with 5 rebounds and 3 steals in the win. Thompson scored 12. Podvin had another double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Strother scored 10 and had 7 rebounds. Casey scored 3. Lowery scored 2.
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As of The Erwin Record’s press deadline, the Blue Devils were at the top spot in the conference standings with a record of 8-1. The remaining teams and their league records are: Sullivan East at 5-2; Johnson County at 4-3; Sullivan Central at 4-5; Elizabethton at 3-5; Sullivan South at 2-4; and Happy Valley at 0-7. The District 1-AA tournament will be played at Elizabethton High School during the second week of February.
The Blue Devils traveled to Sullivan East for a conference showdown on Tuesday, Jan. 30, after the press deadline for this issue.
The Blue 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 non-conference games at David Crockett on Thursday, Feb. 8, and against Cloudland in Erwin on Saturday, Feb. 10. Junior varsity games will be played at 5 p.m. and varsity games at 8 p.m. against Elizabethton, Central and Cloudland. At Crockett, the junior varsity team will play at 6:30 p.m., followed by the varsity at 8 p.m.
The team will honor its senior members following the Cloudland game on Feb. 10.