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Blue Devils earn first league win

Brett Lingerfelt races to the goal for a layup against Elizabethton. (Photo contributed by Teresa Parkey)

By Trey Williams

Unicoi County junior combo guard Brock Thompson loves it when a game plan comes together, especially against rival Elizabethton.

Thompson scored 29 points and helped the Blue Devils limit Elizabethton’s trio of Nico Ashley, Parker Hughes and Jake Roberts to a combined 20 points en route to a 57-46 victory Friday night at Unicoi County.

It was the first Three Rivers Conference win for coach John Good, whose Blue Devils improved to 1-3 in the league and 9-10 overall.

“We had a great game plan,” Thompson said. “We held those three to 20 points. That helped us a whole lot. …

“We always look forward to playing Elizabethton. Ever since I was in the sixth grade we had the in-school T.A. Dugger game. It’s what we all looked forward to. It was during school and everybody was gonna be there. And just like Friday night against Elizabethton, we had the largest crowd we’ve had so far this year.”

Thompson outscored the Cyclones, 14-9, in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve had trouble finishing out games,” Thompson said. “I think this game really showed what we can accomplish, especially later in the year when it comes tournament time. We went 1-for-7 starting out on free throws, but when it came crunch time we made all our free throws. That’s a problem we’ve had. We’ve had teams beat, but we just couldn’t make our free throws. … We made sure that they knew they didn’t have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.”

Good was pleased with Thompson’s shot selection and the Blue Devils’ rally at the foul line.

“We started 1 for 7 at the line and then we hit nine out of the last 10,” Good said. “Free throws are how we’ve lost games. … We got behind and came back, got behind and came back. I mean kids didn’t put their heads down. They played through mistakes. They played through misses. And they defended like crazy.

“Brock didn’t force anything. We made the one extra pass and he was efficient. He played within the offense and the guys found him.”

Jordan Bridges has been getting an increased workload of late, and he’s responded.

“Jordan hadn’t played a lot and the past few games he’s been starting,” Thompson said. “That’s just a thing Coach Good does; he looks for guys that want to be on the court. He found Jordan. He’s a great on-ball defender. We stuck him on Nico, their best player, and he did a great job on him.”

Senior guard Brett Lingerfelt was critical to the win against Elizabethton, too.

“We rely on Brett Lingerfelt for a lot of points,” Thompson said. “And we put a lot of pressure on him in the Elizabethton game, because we had him guarding Parker and Jake. We put a lot of responsibility on him of having to go hard on both ends of the court and play most of the game. And he really stepped it up, too. That’s what you expect out of a senior.”

UCHS began the week with a frustrating 65-63 loss at Sullivan East. Good was less than impressed with part of the officiating crew in the Blue Devils’ last regular-season visit to the Dyer Dome with its namesake, John Dyer, as the Patriots’ head coach.

“We played our butts off at East,” Good said.

UCHS missed 5 of 7 foul shots in the fourth quarter. Thompson scored a team-high 19 points for the Blue Devils, who raced out to a 28-14 lead.

Good was pleased to see his Blue Devils bounce back from the loss at East to reward the largest crowd of the season in Erwin with a quality win.

“It was packed (for Elizabethton),” Good said. “It was outstanding. That’s what made Unicoi special to me. They’re gonna be there to support you. They showed out Friday. … It (the victory) was much needed and much deserved.”

The Blue will host Johnson County on Friday, Jan. 17, and Happy Valley on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The Elizabethton win could be a springboard in the league race.

“We’ve gotta keep chipping away little by little,” Thompson said. “That’s definitely a start for us, because that’s momentum-builder right there.”

The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at 8 p.m.