From Staff Reports
The Unicoi County High School boys basketball team (9-5, 3-0) saw tough competition and a record broken during the Cleveland Holiday Tournament Powered by Under Armour played last week in Cleveland, Tennessee.
“We faced some very good competition from some very athletic teams, which is what we went to that tournament to do,” Smith said.
That athleticism bothered the Blue Devils, especially in two of their three games, last week.
“I think it took us time to adjust to the athleticism of the teams,” Smith said. “We usually don’t play teams that are as athletic as they are. It hit us in the face a little bit. Early in the games we lost we took some quick shots and the other teams got some easy baskets. Once we settled down, especially in the Siegel game, we were able to compete.”
UCHS opened the tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 27, against Clarksville Northeast (12-3). The Blue Devils found themselves back on their heels early in the game and trailed 13-0 at a point in the first quarter. But, Smith’s players didn’t give up and slowly started to scrap their way back into the game. They trailed by a more manageable 18-10 at end of the first quarter.
“We got down 13-0 and ended up losing by 16,” Smith said. “After that initial blitz, we played better and played pretty close to even with them. I am proud of how our guys fought to get back into the game after going down 13-0. We never led in that game and had to exert so much energy just to try to get back in it. They are a very good, athletic team – there’s a reason they only had two losses when we played them. It was a good experience for us.”
Clarksville Northeast defeated the Blue Devils 56-37.
Trevor Hensley led the team in scoring with 22 points. Brock Thompson scored 5. Austin O’Dell scored 4. Brett Lingerfelt scored 3. Gavin Casey scored 2. Nicholas Lynch scored 1.
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Sequoyah High School (3-7) awaited UCHS on Thursday, Dec. 28, in the tournament’s losers bracket.
“Sequoyah is another good team,” Smith said. “We did a good job taking away the scoring options for two of their best players. That helped us get the win. Brett Strother did a good job on their point guard.”
After being tied at 27 at halftime, a Blue Devil run sparked by Hensley and Ty Thelen lifted the Blue Devils to a 39-31 lead with 4 minutes to play in the quarter. The teams traded baskets through the rest of the quarter and UCHS led 48-40 going into the final frame.
Hensley scored the Blue Devils’ first 5 points of the fourth quarter. With his 14th point, the senior guard tied 2011 UCHS graduate Logan Lyle as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,889 points. Hensley broke the record shortly thereafter.
“I am proud of Trevor for this accomplishment,” Smith said. “He has worked hard on his game throughout his high school career and that hard work has paid off.”
Trailing 60-52, Sequoyah then went on a 5-0 run to get back into the game. The Blue Devils then responded with a run of their own on baskets by Troy Podvin and Thompson and 5 points from Hensley. UCHS won the game 72-59.
“Sequoyah has some good basketball players,” Smith said. “We had to really fight to get a win in that game. Troy played well in the that game. He was a force for us.”
Hensley scored 24 and had 7 assists. Podvin had a double-double with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Thelen scored 7. Thompson and Lingefelt each scored 6. Strother had 4 points and 6 rebounds. O’Dell scored 3. Casey and Thompson each had 4 assists.
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Just as they had done two days before, the Blue Devils needed time to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the game – this time against Siegel High School (9-7).
“We trailed 7-0, then 10-2,” Smith said, “but we ended up only down by 1 point at the half and only lost by 1.”
Siegel went on a 9-0 run in the third quarter to retake control of the game and lead 40-30 with three minutes to play in the quarter. Again, Smith’s team fought their way back into the game and trailed 54-52 and had possession of the ball with 14 seconds to play. The team couldn’t score and fouled a Siegel player, who hit two free throws for a score of 56-52. UCHS pushed the ball and Hensley hit a three-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play.
Following a timeout by Smith, the Blue Devils went for a steal on Siegel’s inbounds, but couldn’t come up with the ball as the buzzer sounded. Siegel held on to win 56-55.
Hensley scored 31 points. Podvin scored 9 and had 10 rebounds. Thompson scored 6. Lingerfelt scored 3. Casey, Strother and O’Dell each scored 2.
“All in all, it was a good tournament for us,” Smith said. “I thought we did a good job of fighting and getting ourselves back into games.”
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The Blue Devils hosted Science Hill in non-conference action on Tuesday, Jan. 2, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
The team will host Sullivan East on Friday, Jan. 5, and travel to Elizabethton for Three Rivers Conference games. The junior varsity squad will play each day at 5 p.m.; the varsity team will play at 8 p.m.