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Blue Devils finish fourth in conference

It is all about the road ahead for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team.
UCHS (13-17) will head into the upcoming District 1-AA tournament this week with a 6-6 mark in Three Rivers Conference and the fourth seed in the tournament.
The Blue Devils ended the regular season on Monday, Feb. 9, in non-conference action against Hampton on the road in Carter County.
Hampton won the game, 71-44.
“They went on a 21 to 2 run in the second quarter,” UCHS head coach John English said. “You’re not going to overcome that here. We fed it. We turned the ball over nine times in the first half and they probably scored on each.”
UCHS had 10 players reach the scoring column and kept things close in the first, trailing 18-14. Davis Webb (11 points) hit a three with seconds remaining, but Hampton’s Stone Hutchinson drilled a three-point heave as time expired to give his team the four point late that snowballed to 39-16 at intermission.
“This is hopefully an eye-opener,” English said. “It’s like what we told them in the locker room, especially the five seniors left, we’ve got one game now. There were times out there it looked like we didn’t want it and that’s very disappointing.”
Zach Thelen finished with seven points and Dylan Putman and Chase McNabb added five points each to lead the scorers.
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The Blue Devils erupted for 21 points in the third quarter to take a 51-43 decision over Cloudland on Saturday, Feb. 7, on the road in Roan Mountain.
Merrick Nicksic had the hot-hand late for UCHS, accounting for 10 of his final 17 points in the fourth quarter to help lead his team in the triumph.
Cloudland was coming off an upset earlier in the week to Watauga Valley Conference rival, South Greene, but the Blue Devils were able to stymie any chance of a rally with Dylan Putman also tossing in 11 points in the winning effort.
Clay Simpson and Davis Webb finished with six points each. Trevor Hensley added five points. Zach Thelen, Will Shelton and Austin Hendrickson all finished with a bucket each.
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Non-conference action saw UCHS looking to play spoiler against David Crockett on Friday, Feb. 6, but the Pioneers ultimately secured the 66-52 triumph
Webb went for 19 points as the Blue Devils were within striking distance late of the Pioneers. UCHS pulled the contest within three points but it was a late stretch of three-pointers by David Crockett that allowed team to pull away with the victory.
Putman also cashed in double-digit scoring in the win.
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Johnson County was able to hold on to a five-point lead late to escape Erwin with a 50-45 victory over the Blue Devils in both teams’ TRC finales on Tuesday, Feb. 3.
UCHS trailed the duration of the contest but were able to tie up the contest at 30-30 in the third quarter with a three-point-play by Putman who scored 16 points in the game.
However, the ‘Horns moved their way into the fourth with a 38-36 advantage.
Webb jacked up a three-pointer just a minute into the fourth to pull the game within two points, but Chase Phillips countered with four points, taking momentum from the Blue Devils.
Phillips finished the night with a game-high 22 points for Johnson County.
Thelen tallied in eight in the contest while Nicksic finished with seven to lead UCHS scoring.
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UCHS will compete in the opening round of the District 1-AA tournament on Friday, Feb. 13, against Johnson County at 8 p.m.
A win will send the team into the semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 14, with the potential of a championship or runner-up game set for Tuesday, Feb. 17.
For more information about tournament play, see the article, “District tournament begins this week for UCHS teams,” on page 1-B.