Unicoi County won two of its three games last week to improve to 12-3 overall.
The Blue Devils looked great for three quarters against Morristown West in the first round game of the New Peoples Bank Holiday Classic at Sullivan North Monday, Dec. 28. Leading 48-28 late in the third quarter, the Blue Devils let the Trojans back into the game- a game that had blowout written all over it. It is a puzzling trend that head coach John English is still searching for an answer for. We had a great start, English said. It is hard to put a finger on the late game stuff, but we closed it out.
The first quarter was an active one with five lead changes. Senior post player Tyler Turner was the go-to guy for Unicoi County as the Blue Devils made a concerted effort to exploit the mismatch in the post and exploit it they did to the tune of 12 first-quarter points for Turner and Unicoi County needed every one of them. It was Turners three-point play with 22 seconds left in the quarter that gave Unicoi County a 16-14 lead at quarters end. Turner finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
The second quarter belonged to Unicoi County as their ball-hawking defense took Morristown West out of its game especially Logan Lyle (20 points) who blocked seven shots for the game five in the first half as the Trojans appeared hesitant to drive to the hoop and took numerous perimeter shots instead.
The defense held the Trojans to just three second-quarter points as Unicoi County took a 32-19 halftime lead on a basket by Tolley (17 points) with 18 seconds left. The Blue Devils picked up where they left off in the third quarter as their perimeter shooting took wing as the Blue Devils made five three-point shots in the quarter. Lyle scored 11 of his team high 20 points in the quarter. Lyles three-pointer with less than three minutes left in the quarter gave Unicoi County its biggest lead, 48-28.
From this point on, the Trojans would be the aggressors as Unicoi County repeated what they did against David Crockett letting its opponent back into the game. West would outscore Unicoi County 11-7 the rest of the quarter to make it a 55-39 deficit as the fourth quarter commenced.
The final quarter was a roller-coaster ride with momentum clearly with the Trojans as they outscored Unicoi County 23-11 in the quarter. Chad Brooks basket with 30 second left cut the lead to 64-62. Free-throws by Tolley and D.W. Whitson gave Unicoi County a narrow 66-62 win.
This was a tough win, Turner said. They are very athletic. We almost blew the lead late. We need to finish better.
Regular scheduled games resume Tuesday, Jan. 5 when Unicoi County hosts Unaka. The junior varsity play at 5 p.m. The varsity tips-off at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 8, it is off to Sullivan East for a key Three Rivers Conference game with the Patriots. The junior varsity play at 5 p.m. The varsity square off at 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 29 vs. Hampton
The Bulldogs exacted a measure of revenge for the Blue Devils 77-60 win earlier this season at Hampton as the Bulldogs won 68-59 in a semi-final game of the New Peoples Bank Holiday Classic.
The Bulldogs opened the game aggressively at both ends of the court and shot the ball very well throughout. They led 13-11 after the first quarter and consistently penetrated to the basket. Hampton took a 19-13 lead in the second quarter before the Blue Devils perimeter shooting found its mark that sparked a 17-4 run to give Unicoi County a 30-23 halftime lead.
Turners basket near the midpoint of the third quarter gave Unicoi County a 39-39 lead but the Bulldogs poise didnt waver. That began a trend that carried over into the fourth quarter as they outscored Unicoi County 11-7 the remainder of the quarter and trailed 46-40 at quarters end.
The bottom fell out for the Blue Devils in the fourth quarter as Hampton continued its trapping defense and that fed its offense and it was on fire as they outscored Unicoi County 28-13 in the quarter to walk off with a 68-59 win.
It marked the third straight game the Blue Devils played poorly in the fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter play caught up to us, English said. I knew it would.
Lyle led with 18 points while compiling three assists and making seven deflections. Frazier followed with 12 points and two steals while Tolley chipped in with 10 points, four assists and six rebounds. Whitson scored two points and made two steals. Turner finished with eight points and grabbed 12 points while having a devil of a time with the Bulldogs Logan Andrews in the post. Austin Hensley scored seven points and Trevor Shelton, two points to round out the scoring.
Wednesday, Dec. 30 vs. Elizabethton
The Blue Devils responded from the Hampton debacle the night before with a solid 68-38 win over the Cyclones to improve its overall record to 12-3.
Four Blue Devils, led by Lyles 19 points, scored in double figures as Unicoi County led 26-4 after the first quarter.
The second quarter found the Blue Devils sluggish as they could muster just 11 points and led 37-11 at halftime.
The second half, particularly the fourth quarter, had been Unicoi Countys Achilles in this tournament. Leading 51-27 after three quarters, Unicoi County kept the pressure on the Cyclones as they outscored Betsy 17-6 in the final quarter to secure victory.
Tolley scored 14 points while Turner and Hensley scored 10 points each. Frazier scored eight points while Whitson scored two points.