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Blue Devils fall in opening round of Hardee’s Classic

Brett Strother fights for a loose ball with two Volunteer Falcons during the Blue Devils’ 70-63 victory on Thursday, Nov. 16. Strother scored 3 points and had 7 rebounds in the game. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

After winning the first two games of the season, the Unicoi County High School boys basketball team (2-1) suffered its first loss on Monday, Nov. 20, in the opening round of the 28th Annual Hardee’s Classic.

Facing the David Crockett Pioneers, the tournament’s host team, the Blue Devils struggled shooting the ball and lost the game, 77-65. The defeat will keep UCHS from winning its second consecutive Hardee’s Classic title.

“We didn’t have a good night offensively,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said.

Trevor Hensley scored 19 points and had 3 assists in the loss. Troy Podvin had his third double-double in three games with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Clay Simpson also had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Brock Thompson scored 11 points and had 2 assists.

The loss sent the Blue Devils to the tournament’s consolation bracket where they faced Happy Valley on Tuesday, Nov. 21, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. Win or lose on Tuesday, the team will continue tournament play later in the week. The Hardee’s Classic will conclude on Saturday, Nov. 25.

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The Blue Devils opened the season on Thursday, Nov. 16, with a 70-63 victory at Volunteer over the Falcons in Hall of Champions play.

“I thought we played hard,” Smith said. “We were a little nervous at the start because it was the first game of the season and we played a little timid because of that. Once we settled down and got into a rhythm, I thought we played a pretty good game.”

Smith said a bright spot of the team’s performance was its free throw shooting. The Blue Devils hit 30-39 attempts or 76.9 percent.

“That was a big key in the win and it will be important for us this season,” Smith said. “I think we will go to the line a lot this year.”

Hensley scored 29 to go along with 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Podvin had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Simpson also had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 5 blocks. Brett Strother scored 3 points and had 7 rebounds. Gavin Casey scored 6.

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The Blue Devils won another Hall of Champions game on Saturday, Nov. 18 – this time at home against Cumberland Gap.

“We gave another good effort,” Smith said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we did what we needed to do to get the win. Cumberland Gap is a very scrappy team.”

Podvin led the team with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Hensley scored 12 and had 4 assists. Simpson scored 9 and had 5 rebounds. Brett Lingerfelt scored 11.

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The Blue Devils will open Three Rivers Conference play on Friday, Dec. 1, when they host Happy Valley at UCHS. The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity playing at 8 p.m.