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Devils advance to Region title game

With some run-and-gun action, it's back to familiar territory for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devils.
Led behind a career high night from Keith Arrowood (25 points, 10 rebounds), UCHS defeated Johnson County, 72-50, in the Region 1-AA semifinals held at Hal Henard Gym on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
The Blue Devils (26-6) move on to the Region 1-AA championship game on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. against Greeneville with a region title on the line.
“It says a lot about the character of our guys,” UCHS head coach John English said. “To go from getting put out in district to have ourselves in a position to go to state is big for the team.”
After a 16-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Longhorns (16-13) capped off the final four minutes in the half with a 13-4 run.
It was an adjustment on defense, according to Arrowood, that helped stymie any chances of a Longhorn rally in the second half.
“Keith went 25 and 10 for us tonight, but the biggest thing was his play on Chase Phillips,” English said.
Phillips ended the first half with nine points and the Blue Devils were able to limited him to just three in the second half.
“We knew we had to keep him from rebounding,” Arrowood said. “We knew if they needed a bucket, they would go to him or (Brian) Dempsey so we went to a box one and played a lot better on defense.”
Johnson County opened up the third on a 4-1 run and cut the lead to one with 6:44 to go, 34-33.
Not to be outdone, UCHS rattled off a 15-3 run to end the quarter with a 49-36.
“We wanted to run,” English said. “And we wanted to stay aggressive.”
The aggressive play continued with UCHS outscoring the Longhorns 24-14 in the fourth to keep their season alive.
Lucas Hensley (14 points) and Ethan Rice (13 points, seven assists) went into double figures.
“It's big having that type of scoring,” Hensley, who added a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, said. “It helps free up our posts and we'd love to do that every night. We played tense the first two quarters but we were able to play our ball in the second half.”
Thomas Tipton and Connor Simpson added six points for UCHS. Nic Chambers and Zach Thelen rounded out the scoring with four each.
As far as the rest of the postseason goes, it's all about playing traditional Blue Devil basketball, according to Arrowood.
“We've just got to play calm and collected,” Arrowood said. “Limit our turnovers and play good defense.”
Johnson County was led by Brian Dempsey with 23 points. Phillips added 12.
The task is tall ahead with Greeneville coming off a thrilling 53-50 win over Elizabethton in the other semifinal contest.
“You'd like to have a home substate game,” English said. “But we know we have a tall task ahead [against Greeneville]. We're going to have our hands full.”
Tuesday's victory also guaranteed UCHS a substate game for Monday, March 3.
In the Region 2-AA championship, Christian Academy of Knoxville will face Carter at Alcoa on Thursday at 7 p.m. The winner of UCHS/Greeneville will host the runner-up from Region 2. The second place team from Region 1 will travel.
For updates on Region 2 finals and coverage of the postseason, be sure to follow The Erwin Record Sports on Facebook at on Twitter at: @CurtisCarden_ER.