By Trey Williams
The Unicoi County High School boys basketball team snapped a six-game skid with a 73-65 win against Cosby on Friday, Dec. 27, in Maryville’s Christmas tournament, and showed progress there in competitive losses to Powell (68-64) on Dec. 26 and Anderson County (70-62) on Dec. 28.
“We played some really good competition in Maryville,” first-year Blue Devils coach John Good said. “Each game was a two-possession game and we were able to close out one of them. We are looking for someone else to be consistent off the bench. I thought in some ways we grew up over the three games. Brett Lingerfelt, Lucas Slagle and Brock Thompson had a good tournament.”
Thompson scored 48 points in three games. He made nine 3-pointers and handed out 16 assists.
The victory against Cosby was good medicine for a young team that’s been scuffling.
“At halftime Coach Good talked about how we were starting to play together and he wanted the intensity up in the second half,” said Thompson, a junior combo guard. “And we were finally able to execute and play together in the second half. It was a hard-fought win, that’s for sure.
“I think that win helped us, because we’ve been in a drought, obviously. But I think that win was key to us because we played together at the end of the game. … It felt like at the start of the season whenever we were going 5-1. I think that’s gonna help us going forward in the second half of the season a lot.”
Senior guard Brett Lingerfelt scored 46 points in the tournament. He made 10 treys and tallied 12 assists.
“I definitely think Brett had a great tournament,” Thompson said. “He was knocking down shots. He was three feet behind the line knocking down shots. It just felt like every shot was gonna go in for him, and that’s the confidence I feel like everybody needs if we’re gonna win basketball games.”
Freshman post Lucas Slagle gained confidence in Maryville. He scored 42 points and piled up 35 rebounds in the tournament.
“I hadn’t seen him go for the ball that much since the start of the year,” Thompson said. “He could get any rebound that he wanted to any game no matter who was guarding him, no matter if they were a senior or a freshman themselves. He could get every board he wanted and he proved that down there in the tournament. That’s what I expect out of him for the rest of the season.”
Slagle’s cousin Clay Simpson plays baseball at Carson-Newman. He was blossoming into an exceptional high school post in basketball, but was hampered by injuries.
“He had great potential,” said Thompson, who was a freshman when Simpson got injured at Science Hill in December of his senior season. “If he’d wanted to he could’ve gone somewhere in basketball but he had so many injuries and stuff. Their whole family has been athletic and tall. They’ve got good genetics. Lucas has a bright future.”
Sophomore point guard Bryson Peterson had an encouraging showing in Maryville.
“Bryson Peterson stepped it up a lot,” Thompson said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s trying to run the team for us. Coach Good’s got me off point guard. He’s trying to get me off ball a lot just to run screens and get open shots.”
Some wonder if Thompson might get box-and-one attention in conference play.
“Coach Good and I have talked about it and I’m not selfish about scoring or anything like that,” he said. “I trust my teammates to get the job done. … I just want to win.”
A quarterback in football, Thompson enjoys quarterbacking on the basketball court, too. But he sees the benefits of him playing shooting guard.
“I liked it (point guard) … but I think getting off ball more is gonna set me up more,” he said. “So I feel like if we can do that it’s gonna draw more attention on me and we can get easier buckets for people like Robbie O’Dell. He’s a good 3-point shooter, for sure. He’ll be wide open if we can get some sets going.
“And then Lucas, obviously, he can jump over the backboard. So as long as we can get him one-on-one in the post and draw more attention to me, or draw more attention to Lucas as he gets older and we go throughout the season, it becomes easier to kick out to the guards everywhere. We have 3-point shooters.”
The Blue Devils will travel to Chuckey-Doak on Friday, Jan. 3. There isn’t any danger of the Blue Devils lacking intensity. They led 54-25 against the Black Knights in a game Chuckey-Doak rallied to win 69-67 on a late 3-pointer in Erwin on Dec. 7.
The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5 p.m. with the varsity playing at 8 p.m.