From Staff Reports
57 free throws.
133 shot attempts.
That all added up to a dramatic Three Rivers Conference victory for the Unicoi County High School (12-8, 6-0) boys basketball team at Sullivan Central on Friday, Jan. 12.
After leading most of the game, including a double-digit lead, 61-49, with around 5 minutes to play, the Blue Devils found themselves tied with the Cougars, 67-67, at the end of regulation.
“We gave up some easy baskets late in the game because of turnovers at crucial times,” Blue Devil head coach Michael Smith said. “We also missed some free throws and some easy shots. They took advantage of that to get back in the game.”
Six points by Troy Podvin and 2 by Trevor Hensley and Brett Lingerfelt gave the Blue Devils a commanding 77-72 lead in the first overtime. Again, missed free throws allowed the Cougars to hang around and they tied the game at 77 on a deep three-pointer with less than 15 seconds to play.
In the second overtime, Central took command of the game, leading 82-78 with 50 seconds to play. Blue Devil Brock Thompson was fouled and hit 2 free throws with 43 seconds left to make it 82-80. Central then missed 2 free throws before Hensley converted 2 of his own to tie the game again and force a third overtime.
During the third overtime, the teams traded baskets and were tied at 86 with 9.8 seconds to play. The Blue Devils had the ball, but couldn’t score and the teams tipped off another overtime.
After the Cougars scored first, Thompson got UCHS going with a basket of his own to tie the game at 88. Central then hit a three-pointer, which Thompson immediately answered with a three-pointer. Central then hit another three-pointer and Thompson answered again, tying the game at 94.
“Brock really stepped up for us,” Smith said. “Those two three-pointers were huge for us. He showed a lot of poise as a freshman.”
Central then had the ball and held for the last shot of the fourth overtime. The Cougars moved the ball to the left side of the floor, then Hensley jumped into a passing lane, came away with a steal, scored and was fouled, putting UCHS in the lead for good. Hensley hit the free throw and the Blue Devils led 97-94 with 10.8 seconds to play.
“Trevor made a great play,” Smith said.
The Cougars got a look at a three-pointer, but it bounced off the rim and the Blue Devils won the game.
“It was a really exciting game,” Smith said. “I think it’s a game our guys will remember for a very long time.”
Hensley scored 42 points and had 7 assists. Thompson scored 31 and had 5 rebounds. Podvin had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Lingerfelt and Brett Strother scored 4 points each. Gavin Casey and Austin O’Dell scored 2 points each.
With the win, the Blue Devils remained unbeaten in league play with a 6-0 record. Central and Sullivan East are both in 3-2. Elizabethton and Johnson County are both 2-3. Sullivan South is 1-3. Happy Valley is 0-4.
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The Blue Devils went to overtime again – this time for only one period and with a different end result – at Hampton on Monday, Jan. 15.
Playing against a team who previously defeated them and without Hensley, their leading scorer, the Blue Devils played hard, but untimely turnovers kept them from getting the win.
“I thought we played hard and got after it,” Smith said. “We did a good job of getting easy baskets. Troy did a great job rebounding. I think he had 6 or 7 offensive rebounds and scored on 4 or 5 of those putbacks. Our problem was the turnovers we did have led to easy baskets for them.”
Smith said he believed his team would have won in regulation if not for the turnovers late in the game. The Bulldogs won the game, 62-58.
Podvin had a double-double with 29 points and 17 rebounds. Thompson scored 19 points. Casey scored 7. Lingerfelt scored 2. Strother scored 1.
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A sluggish first half led to a 30-24 deficit for the Blue Devils at Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
“We didn’t play well, especially early,” Smith said. “I think we went into it a little overconfident.”
The Blue Devils played better in the third quarter, cutting the Cyclones’ lead to 1 point, 41-40, going into the four quarter.
UCHS took control of the game in the final quarter, going on a 20-9 run to win the game, 60-50.
Hensley scored 29 points against the Cyclones. Podvin had a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Thompson, Casey and Strother scored 4 points each. Ty Thelen and Danny Lowery each scored 2.
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The Blue Devils were scheduled to host David Crockett on Tuesday, Jan. 16, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.
They are scheduled to travel to Happy Valley to face the Warriors on Friday, Jan. 19, and host Sullivan South on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Three Rivers Conference action. Blue Devil junior varsity games are scheduled for 5:30 p.m., with the varsity games set for 8 p.m.