Gavin Casey goes up for a shot against South Doyle on Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Hardee’s Classic. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The 2018 Hardee’s Classis resulted in one victory and two losses for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team (2-3).

“I like playing in the Hardee’s tournament because there is always good competition,” head coach Michael Smith said. “Every team has a chance to win it and you get to play three tough opponents. It’s a great chance for us to get three quality games in early in the season before we start conference play.”

The team opened the annual tournament against University High on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Struggles offensively in the second half doomed the Blue Devils against the Jr. Bucs. After trailing by only three points at halftime, Smith’s team just couldn’t put the ball in the goal in the second half. At the same time, the Jr. Bucs shot the ball very well.

“We did a good job in the first half defensively and taking care of the ball,” Smith said. “But, we went on a long stretch in the second half and didn’t score. They shot the ball very well in the second half.”

University High won the game, 81-63.

Sophomore Brock Thompson led the Blue Devils in scoring with 20 points (3 three-pointers) and 6 rebounds. Senior Gavin Casey scored 14 (2 three-pointers) and had 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Senior Ty Thelen scored 6. Junior Caleb Adkins scored 4 and senior Austin O’Dell scored 2.

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What Smith described as his team’s best overall performance of the season came against Claiborne in the Hardee’s tournament losers’ bracket on Friday, Nov. 23.

“We did a good job of moving the ball, sharing the ball and setting other people up for shots,” Smith said. “We also did a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Of the team’s 26 made field goals, 20 were assisted. The Blue Devils also owned the paint, scoring 36 points in that area. They were also solid from the free throw line, making 22-29.

The Blue Devils also had five players scored in double figures in the 80-74 victory.

“We had seven guys score between 7 and 13 points,” Smith said. “It is very important that our offense was so evenly dispersed.”

Junior Brett Lingerfelt (1 three-pointer and 7 assists), junior Nicholas Hensley (3 three-pointers) and O’Dell (6 rebounds) all scored 13 points in the win.

Casey scored 12 points and had 5 rebounds. Senior Danny Lowery scored 11 and had 8 rebounds. Junior Phoenix Holt scored 9 (1 three-pointer). Thelen scored 7 (1 three-pointer). Adkins scored 2.

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Turnovers proved costly for UCHS in the final game of the Hardee’s Classic on Saturday, Nov. 24. Facing South Doyle, the Blue Devils went into halftime leading 28-27; however, a disastrous third quarter gave South Doyle the cushion needed to earn the win.

“We got outscored by 14 in the third quarter,” Smith said. “We missed some shots and they did a good job of limiting us to one shot.”

The Blue Devils didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 52-39, the team went on a 13-1 run to get within 1 point, 53-52, late in the game. However, turnovers proved to be the difference as the Blue Devils turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, allowing South Doyle to hold on for the 64-55 victory.

Lingerfelt led the team in scoring with 14 points (3 three-pointers). Casey had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Thelen scored 9 and had 4 assists. Lowery scored 9 and had 6 rebounds and 3 assists. O’Dell scored 8. Holt scored 3. Adkins scored 3.

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The Blue Devils will open the Three Rivers Conference season on the road at Happy Valley on Friday, Nov. 30.

“I expect it to be a tough game,” Smith said of the matchup with the rival Warriors. “Every game in our league will be tough. Each night any team can beat any other. We have to come ready to play and get off on the right foot in the conference.”

The Blue Devils will host Sullivan South in conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

The junior varsity team is set to play each day at 5 p.m., with the varsity to follow at 8 p.m.