By Trey Williams
Lucas Slagle is rounding into form and his Unicoi County Blue Devils appear to be ready to turn the corner.
Slagle, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, had a pair of double-doubles last week in what would’ve been a pair of victories with more accurate free throw shooting at David Crockett on Monday, Dec. 7.
But the Pioneers bounced back from a disappointing 64-60 loss in Jonesborough to record a 56-42 victory at Cherokee on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
Slagle’s double-double in Rogersville included 18 points and 6-for-6 free throw shooting. He had 22 points and at least half that many rebounds at Crockett.
“The guys are making a conscious effort to get the ball inside,” Unicoi County coach John Good said.
David Crockett coach Cody Connell didn’t see any good options for defending Slagle’s mix of size, strength and agility.
“You can’t guard him unless you’ve got a big man that can literally just bruise him,” Crockett coach Cody Connell said. “I told the guys at halftime, I said, ‘You’re playing against a kid – you won’t see another kid in the conference that big and that strong.’ And what stinks, honestly, is we’ve gotta see him for two more years. I don’t know how you guard him down low man to man. He’s just a bruiser.”
David Crockett 6-foot-4 senior Mason Britton is a wing, but was behind Slagle some in the back of a 2-3 zone defense.
“He’s a really good player,” Britton said. “He’s a big, strong kid. He’s got good touch around the rim. It was tough being on him in the 2-3 (zone).”
The Blue Devils had Crockett on thin ice. The game was tied, 60-60, when the Devils misfired on an open 3-pointer, a driving bank shot and, last but not least, the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 11.8 seconds left.
Crockett’s Ayden Begley was fouled rebounding the missed free throw and made both ends of a one-and-one for a 62-60 lead with 10.5 seconds remaining. Unicoi missed the front end of another one-and-one with 5.3 seconds left and Britton went to the line at the other end to preserve victory with two foul shots.
“We could be undefeated if we’d hit our free throws,” Good said.
The Blue Devils hit their foul shots at Cherokee, finishing 17 of 21 at the line.
Grant Hensley scored 17 points against the Chiefs. He made a pair of 3-pointers and 5 of 6 foul shots.
Shooting guard Robbie O’Dell made four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points for the Blue Devils at Crockett, where he seems to like shooting. He made 14 treys in three games at Crockett while helping Unicoi go 2-1 in the Hardee’s Classic last month.
O’Dell’s final trey gave the Devils a 55-52 lead with 3:57 to go.
“Robbie’s shooting it well,” Good said. “Robbie’s really playing well for us.”
Tyler Clouse (nine points) made three treys for Unicoi against the Pioneers and Hensley scored eight points, including a 3-pointer.
“We’ve really defended well,” Good said. “Played extremely unselfish. Lucas had another double-double versus Cherokee. …
“Grant shot the ball well. Robbie rebounded and defended at a high level. Pieces are starting to come together.”
O’Dell is leading the Blue Devils with 14 points per game. Slagle is the leading rebounder, grabbing an average of 12 per game, and Bryson Peterson leads the team with 4.5 assists per game. All three played football.
“It’s great to be back and I love playing with the new guys,” Slagle said, “and it’s nice to see our football guys getting back in the groove of things. We have a lot of potential and I think we show that, especially when we make free throws and don’t turn the ball over.”
Unicoi County was scheduled to host Hampton on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Last week’s game at Sullivan South has been rescheduled for Jan. 6.