By Trey Williams
It didn’t score him one of his treasured cookie cakes, but Robbie O’Dell’s sweet 16-point performance was a memorable way to spend his 17th birthday.
O’Dell didn’t need 17 candles to catch fire on a big night in a Tuesday, Jan. 14, win at Sullivan Central, which highlighted a three-win week that extended the Unicoi County High School basketball team’s winning streak to four games. It is the Blue Devils’ longest streak since winning five straight postseason games en route to the sectional in 2018.
Unicoi County began the week Monday with a 57-49 home win against North Buncombe (North Carolina), impressively avenging an 83-71 road loss on Dec. 4. And after winning at Central the following night, the Devils returned home to outlast Johnson County, 53-50, on Friday.
“We have had some different players step up at different times during our current winning streak,” Blue Devils coach John Good said. “That’s a sign of a team playing with and for each other. We are defending at a high level right now as well.”
O’Dell scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter at Central, including a 3-pointer via a kick-out from post Lucas Slagle that made it a two-possession game midway through the period. It was one of four treys he made.
“It was a cool day with it being my birthday and us going to Central and getting that win,” O’Dell said, “especially with it being a big conference game, too.”
Slagle, an impressive freshman post, tallied 12 points and 18 rebounds against the Cougars. The Blue Devils made life rough for Central’ promising freshman combo guard Joltin Harrison. O’Dell and Jordan Bridges did the lion’s share of defending him.
“We kept a guy on him the whole time because we thought he was their best player,” O’Dell said. “We tried to stay in his jersey because we thought he was the one guy who could do the most damage.”
Central failed to have a double-figure scorer, and Ty Barb led the way with nine points.
Bryson Peterson handed out five assists and Brett Lingerfelt scored nine points against the Cougars. Lingerfelt was coming off a 23-point outing against North Buncombe, a performance that included seven 3-pointers.
Slagle had 10 rebounds against North Bucombe, while Nick Lynch (nine points) and Caleb Adkins (seven rebounds, five assists) also had productive nights.
“Caleb Adkins and Nicholas Hensley and Nick Lynch – they did a lot of the dirty stuff like getting the hard rebounds and playing good defense (last week),” O’Dell said. “And they knocked down some shots. They did some good stuff for us in those wins.”
The 20-point turnaround against North Buncombe was impressive.
“It just really wasn’t clicking for us,” O’Dell said. “Earlier in the season, we weren’t really playing together and stuff. But now I think we’re starting to do that. It’s helped a lot, because we’re getting everybody going and we’re on the same page.”
Lingerfelt scored a team-high 17 points in the win against Johnson County. He made four 3-pointers.
“Brett shot the ball well versus North Buncombe and Johnson County,” Good said. “Robbie hit some big shots versus Central.”
Brock Thompson scored 13 points against Johnson County, including an impressive left-handed drive and finish through contact. Slagle tallied a team-high nine rebounds.
The Blue Devil hosted Happy Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 21, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They are scheduled to travel to Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 24. O’Dell said slowing down guards Ben Diamond and Cole Layne will be critical. Layne scored 30 points and Diamond added 21 in the Rebels’ 90-59 win during Unicoi’s visit to Kingsport last month.
Thompson (14) and Lingerfelt (11) combined for 25 points against the Rebels.
The junior varsity is scheduled to play at 5 p.m., with the varsity taking the court at 8 p.m.