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Blue Devils best Happy Valley after slow start

Brett Lingerfelt dribbles away from Happy Valley’s Luke Roberts during the Blue Devils’ victory on Friday, Dec. 1, in Erwin. Lingerfelt scored 5 points in the game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

Less than two weeks after they hammered Happy Valley during the 28th Annual Hardee’s Classic the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team (6-1, 1-0) had to play the Warriors again – this time a Three Rivers Conference victory on the line.

In the first matchup between the rivals this season, UCHS got the best of Happy Valley from the tip and cruised to a 77-40 victory. When the teams faced one another on Friday, Dec. 1, at the Devils’ Den in Erwin it appeared that would be the case again as UCHS took an early 8-2 lead and led 12-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Despite the early lead, the Blue Devils weren’t exactly playing well.

“It’s difficult to be focused to face a team after you just beat them by 37 points,” head coach Michael Smith said. “We overlooked them on Friday in the first half and it showed in how we played.”

The Blue Devils held a 20-14 lead with 2 minutes to play in the half. The Warriors then went on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 20. UCHS held a 22-20 lead at the break thanks to two free throws by post Clay Simpson in the final minute.

Fortunately for Smith and Blue Devil fans, the second half was a different story.

Guard Gavin Casey opened the third quarter with a bucket on his team’s first possession and the Blue Devils were much more active on defense, forcing missed shots and turnovers and converting those into points. UCHS outscored Happy Valley 27-9, including a 14-2 run in the final 3 minutes, in the third to take a 49-29 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We were sluggish in the first half,” Smith said. “But, our guys got themselves focused at halftime and really picked up their play in the second half, especially defensively.”

The Blue Devils outscored the Warriors 24-17 in the fourth quarter to win the game, 73-46.

Trevor Hensley scored 28 to lead the team. He also had 6 rebounds and 6 steals. Simpson scored 13 and had 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. Troy Podvin scored 5 and had 16 rebounds.

Brett Stroter scored 6. Brett Lingerfelt scored 5. Casey had 4. Danny Lowery and Noah Tilson each had 3 points. Austin O’Dell had 2 and Phoenix Holt had 1.

The Blue Devils played their second conference game of the season on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at Sullivan South after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.

Their next game is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 11, at home against Hampton.

They will travel to Science Hill to face the Hilltoppers on Tuesday, Dec. 12, and to Mountain City to face the Longhorns on Friday, Dec. 15. The junior varsity squad is scheduled to play at 5 p.m. each day, with the varsity taking to the court at 8 p.m.