From Staff Reports
The Food City Thanksgiving Classic was a learning experience for the Unicoi County High School boys’ basketball team.
“I feel like we identified our strengths and our weaknesses,” Blue Devil head coach John Good said of the tournament hosted by Sullivan East. “I thought we played unselfishly.”
The Blue Devils (5-2) opened the tournament with a hard-fought 62-55 loss to South Greene on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
“We fouled way too much in the game,” Good said. “We did fight back; I would expect nothing less.”
The Rebels held a 20-8 lead after the first quarter and a 33-21 lead at the break. The Blue Devils made a run in the third quarter, outscoring South Greene by 10 points, to trail by only two points, 43-41, going into the final eight minutes of play.
The Rebels opened the quarter on an 8-2 run to lead 51-43 with five minutes to play in the game. Three free throws by Brett Lingerfelt and one by Phoenix Holt brought the Blue Devils within striking distance, 51-47, before the Rebels stretched out their lead to 59-50 with around one minute to play.
Lingerfelt then scored five consecutive points to bring UCHS within four points, 59-55, with 21 seconds to play. However, the Rebels hit their free throws down the stretch to hang on for the win.
“Give them credit, they handled the ball well and hit their free throws,” Good said.
As a member of District 2-AA, South Greene is a potential region tournament opponent for the Blue Devils. Playing them early in the season is beneficial to the team, according to Good.
“It provides you with information on the areas in which we need to improve,” he said of playing a potential postseason foe.
Lingerfelt led the Blue Devils with 20 points in the loss. Brock Thompson scored 14. Robbie O’Dell scored 9. Lucas Slagle scored 7 and had 11 rebounds. Caleb Adkins and Bryson Peterson each scored 2. Holt scored 1.
The Blue Devils bounced back from the loss with an 81-39 victory over Unaka on Friday, Nov. 29. Defense was key to the win, according to the head coach.
“We responded well after losing on Tuesday,” Good said. “We didn’t foul and we guarded their three-point shooters well.”
Twelve UCHS players scored in the win. Thompson led with the team with 15 points. Slagle scored 12 and had 9 rebounds. Zachary Hopson scored 8. Lingerfelt, Adkins and Nicohlas Lynch each scored 7. O’Dell and Grant Hensley scored 5 points each. Holt, Nicholas Hensley and Mason Barcel scored 4 each. Jordan Bridges scored 3.
Later on Friday, the Blue Devils held off a third-quarter comeback by KACHEA to win, 65-52.
“After a long day – playing at 10:30 a.m. and then waiting around for the 6 p.m. game – I was pleased with our effort,” Good said of the win over KACHEA. We got the ball inside, hit our free throws and defended well.”
Thompson scored 22 and had 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the win. Slagle had a double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Lingerfelt scored 12 and had 4 rebounds. Nicholas Hensley scored 4. O’Dell scored 3. Peterson scored 2 and Hopson scored 1.
The Blue Devils struggled to shoot the ball in a 60-46 loss to Hampton on Saturday, Nov. 30.
“We shot poorly from the field and free throw line,” Good said. “We kept competing but we just couldn’t make a shot.”
Lingerfelt scored 12 and had 4 rebounds. Peterson scored 8. Hopson and Lynch scored 5 each. Slagle scored 4 and had 11 rebounds. O’Dell scored 4 and had 7 rebounds. Thompson scored 4. Bridges and Adkins each scored 2. Grant Hensley scored 1.
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The Blue Devils were scheduled to travel to Cloudland for a non-conference contest on Tuesday, Dec. 3, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
They will travel to North Buncombe High School (North Carolina) for a non-conference game on Wednesday, Dec. 4. They will open Three Rivers Conference play at Happy Valley on Friday, Dec. 6. The Blue Devils will return home for non-conference games against Chuckey-Doak on Saturday, Dec. 7, and Hampton on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
“We will try to get better each time out,” Good said. “Being on the road, we will need to manage the two areas we can control – our attitude and effort.”
The junior varsity boys are scheduled to play at 5 p.m., with the varsity boys playing at 8 p.m.