By Trey Williams
Coming of age can get old, especially when you’re playing a quality veteran team such as Sullivan South.
That was the predicament for first-year Unicoi County coach John Good and his Blue Devils when they hosted the Rebels on Friday, Dec. 13, in a Three Rivers Conference game.
Cole Layne scored 30 points, fellow guard Ben Diamond added 21 and South ran off with a 90-59 victory that dropped Unicoi to 0-2 in the league and 6-7 overall.
“In a lot of games we’re a couple of possessions away – a shot or getting a stop,” Good said. “South – that was the best game they played all year. They hit threes. They were getting to the rim.”
South shot approximately 60 percent and the Blue Devils shot less than 30 percent from the field.
“We didn’t hit shots and they were on fire,” Good said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We just couldn’t match them scoring.
“We tried everything against South – zone, man to man, box-and-one, triangle-and-two. It just didn’t work.”
South coach Michael McMeans has been with the Rebels seniors since they were in the sixth grade.
“He was their middle school coach and then moves up with them,” Good said. “They play well together. He was talking about how our (inexperienced) team reminds him of his team – a lot of growth takes place. You may not see the fruit this year … that’s what he talked about. They took their lumps getting there.
“They’re a good team now. They beat Tennessee High. And I know it was just a jamboree, but they beat Science Hill in the jamboree pretty good. They’re not very deep, but all of them can play.”
Brock Thompson scored a team-high 14 points against South. UCHS also got 11 points from Brett Lingerfelt, whose effort continues to impress Good.
“He gives everything he has on every possession,” Good said. “I mean he battles.”
UCHS opened the week with a 56-53 home loss to Hampton on Tuesday.
Thompson led the Blue Devils with 22 points, including six 3-pointers. His final one gave the Devils a 51-48 lead. A seventh trey – he attempted one essentially at the buzzer – would’ve forced overtime.
Promising freshman post Lucas Slagle had 10 points and 13 rebounds and Robbie O’Dell hit a pair of 3-pointers against Hampton, which got a team-high 17 points from Jordan Bentley.
UCHS lost 60-46 to Hampton at Sullivan East on Nov. 30, and Good saw progress in the 10-day turnaround.
“We hit shots and I thought we played with a little bit more energy than we did at Sullivan East,” Good said. “Other than the Chuckey-Doak game when we had turnovers – the rest of the time we just haven’t shot the ball well. We’re getting good shots.”
Overall, Good has been pleased with his green squad. He sees a deep well of mental toughness from which to draw as this squad blossoms during the next season and a half.
“If we turn it over we’ve got guys that are chasing the other team down,” he said. “We’re not just waving the white flag. The ones that are missing shots, the next time around when it comes they’re taking the next one. I think that shows mental toughness there, you know, because a lot of kids may start passing on them. I like that.”
The Blue Devils will open play against Knox Powell on Dec. 26 in a tournament at Maryville.
“They’re a Knoxville class AAA team and they play in a tough district,” Good said. “So they’ll be pretty good. … We’ll keep working.”
The tournament will continue on Dec. 27-28.