From Staff Reports
One of the wildest games in Erwin in recent memory was played between the Unicoi County High School boys varsity basketball team (13-9, 6-1) and Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 20, in Erwin.
Both the Blue Devils and the Rebels were scoreless during the opening minutes of the game. South held a 9-6 lead at the end of the first. Then, things turned ugly for the Blue Devils as South scored 16 unanswered points to take a 25-6 lead.
“We couldn’t get any shots to go in the second quarter,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “When we are playing well, we make shots. When we’re not playing well, we don’t.”
The usually sharp-shooting Blue Devils struggled from beyond the arc all night against South, hitting only 4 of their 20 attempts.
Chase McNabb scored on a reverse layup with around two minutes to play in the half. This started a 6-0 for UCHS as the Blue Devils tried to fight their way back in the game. South scored on a buzzer-beater to take a 27-12 lead into halftime.
At the break, Smith and his players regrouped and changed their game plan.
“In the third quarter we came out in a full-court man press,” Smith said. “We were trapping and trying to make them rush. They missed shots they were making in the first half and I think that is because we sped up the pace of the game.”
The Blue Devils scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter – 9 by Dylan Putman, 6 by Trevor Hensley and 2 by Troy Podvin – to take the lead, 29-27. South took the lead back, 31-28, and the teams battled back and forth the rest of the quarter. UCHS came out on top, leading 38-35 going into the fourth.
It was South’s turn to make a run. The Rebels outscored the Blue Devils 11-2 to lead 46-40 with less than 4 minutes to play in the game. Hensley hit 6 free throws during the next minutes of play, but the Blue Devils found themselves once again down by 6 points, 52-46, with one minute to play; that’s when one of the team’s youngest players hit the biggest shot of his career so far.
Hensley brought the ball across halfcourt and looked for a shot. He was stopped by the Rebel defense and passed the ball to Lingerfelt on the right wing. A South defender made a play on the ball, but Lingerfelt maintained possession, avoided another defender and shot a 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net.
“That was a clutch shot by Brett, “ Smith said. “He’s a good shooter. It was a big-time shot for him.”
The Blue Devils then fouled a Rebel, who made only one of his free throws for a 53-49 lead with 47 seconds to play. Putman then scored for a 53-51 score. The Blue Devils fouled again and South again only hit one free throw for a 54-51 score with 36 seconds to play.
Putman and Hensley both missed 3-pointers on the next possession, but Hensley was able to grab an offensive rebound and score on a layup.
Trailing by one, UCHS fouled South again, and again South managed to hit only one free throw for a 55-53 score with 14 seconds to go. Hensley wouldn’t be stopped by the Rebel defense this time. He drove into the paint, hit a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw and UCHS led 56-55.
“That was a big play,” Smith said of Hensley’s score. “He made a tough shot.”
The Blue Devils kept South from scoring and earned the victory.
Hensley scored 23 points and had 5 assists. Putman scored 11 (1 3-pointer). McNabb scored 10 (2-3 pointers). Podvin scored 9 and had 14 rebounds. Lingerfelt scored 3 (1 3-pointer).
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Despite losing an early double-digit lead, the Blue Devils left Kingsport with a 70-55 victory over Sullivan North on Saturday, Jan. 21.
It was a 3-point shootout more than a game as both teams hit 11 3-pointers in the contest.
“We went up by 19 in the second quarter, then North hit three or 4 threes in a row to get back into it,” Smith said.
UCHS held a 35-27 lead at the break.
“It was a close game the whole third quarter,” Smith said. “We started making shots in the fourth quarter to get our lead back to 20. They scored the last five points of the game.”
Hensley scored 29 (2 3-pointers). Putman scored 15 (3 3-pointers). McNabb scored 15 (5 3-pointers). Brett Strother scored 1 point.
Podvin, who has recently entered the Blue Devil starting lineup, scored 10 (1 3-pointer) and had 20 rebounds. Smith said in three games last week Podvin scored a total of 33 points and grabbed 43 rebounds.
“Troy has come in and done a great job being our main post guy,” Smith said. “He controlled the glass for us in all of our games last week and he has increased his scoring output for us.”
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Last week opened with an easy 81-42 victory over conference rival Happy Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
UCHS was in total control of the game from the start and hit 13 3-pointers en route to the win.
“It was a good win,” Smith said. “It’s always good to get a win over a rival and conference opponent.”
Hensley scored 28 (3 3-pointers) and had 6 steals. Podvin scored 14 (2 3-pointers) and had 9 rebounds. McNabb scored 12 (3 3-pointers). Putman scored 10 (2 3-pointers). Lingerfelt scored 9 (3 3-pointers). Michael Howell scored 4, Strother scored 2 and Ty Thelen scored 2.
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The Blue Devils traveled to Sullivan East for an important conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, following The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
They are scheduled to travel to Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 27, for their second matchup of the season with the Longhorns. The Blue Devils previously defeated Johnson County earlier this month in Erwin.
UCHS returns home to face Sullivan North on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 3. The junior varsity will face Johnson County, North and Elizabethton at 5 p.m. each day; the varsity team will face those teams at 8 p.m.
The team will also recognize its senior members on Jan. 31.