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Blue Devils clash with league rival

A wild second half saw an overwhelming swing of momentum go in favor of the Blue Devils.
The Unicoi County High School boys’ basketball teams capitalized on two technical fouls and turned a deficit into a 17-4 run in the third to earn a 60-45 victory over Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 29, in Erwin.
The victory solidified the Blue Devils’ (14-9) second place standing in the Three Rivers Conference with a 7-2 record in league play.
After falling to the Blue Devils by one point during the teams’ previous meeting in Mountain City, the Longhorns marched into halftime with an 18-13 advantage before chaos ensued midway through the third quarter.
The drama began when a foul was called against the Longhorns during a rebound attempt. Emotions flared with a technical being issued on the court against a Johnson County player, then another against Longhorn head coach Austin Atwood.
Johnson County held a 26-15 lead when the technicals were assessed. Blue Devil guard Trevor Hensley successfully hit all four technical free throws to cut the lead to single digits, 26-19.
“We had our backs against the wall,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “It was either pick it up and start playing or get beat by 20 or 25 points. The guys really picked it up … the technicals, all that emotion got the gym into it. (Johnson County’s) people were in it, but then our fans started getting into it. It was great atmosphere for a game and the guys just got after it from that point on.”
Hensley was perfect from the free throw line during the game, hitting all 16 free throws he attempted. He led the Blue Devils with 25 points.
The Blue Devils’ run continued into the fourth quarter, which saw Dylan Putman erupt for 11 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers that saw Blue Nation erupt in excitement as the UCHS lead expanded into double digits.
“It’s guys like Hunter (Hensley), Michael (Howell), Eli (Gillis) and Dalton (Spears) that stepped up for us with their leadership,” Clay Simpson (12 points, 15 rebounds) said following the contest. “We couldn’t hit our shots in the first half, but after halftime they started to fall for us.”
Smith credited the crowd for the excitement and the team’s ability to overcome adversity to pull away with the win.
“We’re only guaranteed six more games,” Smith said. “We could have as many as 12, seven, or just those games. We have to have that type of performance through the rest of the season if we want to keep playing.”
Hunter Hensley and Spears tallied four points each in the contest. Jacob Smith added two points.
The Blue Devils saw defensive sparks off the bench from the likes of Chase McNabb, Hunter Hensley and Gillis.
Jose Guzman led the Longhorns with 13 points on the night.
• • •
The Blue Devils used an early 19-point effort in the first quarter to secure a 62-57 victory over Sullivan South on Thursday, Jan. 28, in Sullivan County.
The Rebels continued to counter, including an 18-10 scoring advantage in the second quarter, but UCHS held strong with three players reaching double figures.
Trevor Hensley led the Blue Devils with a team-high 15 points and was joined in double figures by 10 points each from Smith and Simpson.
Putman tossed in nine points for UCHS, while Spears (seven points), McNabb (six points) and Hunter Hensley (five points) rounded out the scoring for Blue Nation.
Garrett Bowery led all scorers with 19 points for the Rebels.
• • •
UCHS had Sullivan East where they wanted them on Tuesday, Jan. 26, in Erwin, but the Patriots rattled off a late run in the fourth quarter to secure a 52-40 win to remain in first place of the league. The Blue Devils previously fell to Sullivan East, 68-50, in Bluff City.
Simpson led the team with 10 points, while Trevor Hensley and Putman each scored nine points.
Cole Green led the Patriots with 15 points on the night.
• • •
Johnson County used a late surge on Friday, Jan. 29, to upend the Blue Devil junior varsity, 42-40, prior to the start of the varsity double header.
McNabb tossed in 16 points for UCHS and was joined in double figures by Brett Strother, who scored 10 points. Michael Howell and Austin O’Dell dropped five points each. Gavin Casey tossed in four points.
The UCHS junior varsity took care of business on the road against Sullivan South on Thursday, Jan. 28, with a 49-42 victory in Colonial Heights.
McNabb led the way with 16 points while Ty Thelen added nine points.
The junior varsity Blue Devils opened the week with a 51-38 win against the Patriots where McNabb led the way with 19 points.
• • •
The Blue Devils opened this week with a league clash against Sullivan North on Tuesday, Feb. 2, in Kingsport after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
UCHS will end the week with a trip to Carter County to face Elizabethton.
The junior varsity will open play at 5 p.m. The varsity is scheduled to play at 8 p.m.
The UCHS freshmen will play in Erwin against the Cyclones on Thursday, Feb. 4, with the start time set for 7 p.m.