By Trey Williams
Unicoi County High School girls basketball coach Kerri King was pleased to see her team’s growth after getting cut down to size during a Christmas tournament in Maryville.
The Blue Devils (11-4) bounced back from a 77-42 loss to Class AAA power Maryville on Thursday, Dec. 26, to record respective wins against McMinn Central (48-29) and Knox Webb (53-36) on Friday and Saturday.
King said her squad’s 9-3 pre-Christmas record was a “little inflated” and some humble pie might’ve hit the spot.
“I’m glad that we had that Maryville game to knock them down into reality, to show them there’s a ton of work we still need to do,” King said. “But then we kind of got built back up. We got that win against McMinn Central and then we had that good win (Saturday against Webb).”
King wasn’t sure if her players were nervousness against Maryville, or just sluggish after the Christmas layoff.
“I don’t even know if my girls are aware enough to know that is a really good team,” she said. “They knew they were AAA and they had beaten Science Hill. So that probably did put a little fear in them, actually. … Maryville goes fast and they’re long.”
A 17-point win against Webb was encouraging. The Spartans lost 48-38 on Dec. 21 to Elizabethton, which was picked second in the Lady Devils’ Three Rivers Conference. UCHS was picked seventh.
“Webb is pretty good,” King said. “Their record doesn’t show it. They’re just scrappy and she reloads every year because they’re a private school. We played pretty well.”
Caroline Podvin piled up 18 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists against Webb.
“And Caroline didn’t hit any threes,” King said. “They were all on drives. We were running motion, and really, our best way of scoring was run motion, take a shot, get an offensive rebound and kind of balance the floor back out. She got a lot of drives off of others’ offensive rebounds. …
“She’s got a good little runner and she can find seams once the defense is broken down. If it’s in front of her, she won’t just try to take somebody off the dribble.”
Ashtan Vance scored 17 points and Tenley Holt had nine points and nine rebounds against Webb. Laurel Osborne, playing more after Abigail Rush left Friday’s game with a shoulder ailment, also provided a big lift. She scored six points on 3-of-3 field goal shooting and grabbed five rebounds.
“That was big for us,” King said. “They had two good post players. She got a lot of time. … Laurel stepped in and she just played a really solid game for us.”
Guard Leah Edney was also invaluable, especially when you consider she fouled out after going scoreless on one field goal attempt.
“But she had four assists and she just kept us in it, because she was always in help and she was just keeping us together, really,” King said. “I thought she had a good game both days (against McMinn Central and Webb). Leah and Caroline are good friends just in general, and she will set her up all the time. Honestly, Leah doesn’t even care if she shoots. She doesn’t even want to really. She’ll just distribute the ball. She helps us a lot.”
Vance scored 14 points and Holt added 10 in the victory over McMinn Central. Kaylia Street (nine points), Podvin (six) and Edney and Osborne (four apiece) helped comprise a balanced attack.
“Kaylia Street hit three threes in that game,” King said. “That was a big lift for her and for us, too.”
Maryville (12-3) beat Powell (12-1), 74-45, in the championship. Powell is coached by King’s brother, John Fisher.
That helped make for a good trip, as did traveling with the UCHS boys team. The girls cheered the boys when they got on the bus after beating Cosby on Friday, which King said helped make for a brother-sister, small-town camaraderie.
“I don’t think I could’ve asked for anything more out of a Christmas tournament,” King said. “Even the Maryville loss – losses like that expose what you need to work on so much. And it doesn’t really cost you anything but a loss in your overall record. Why not put yourself out there and see how you match up and see where you need to get better. I was really pleased with it (tournament performance).”
The Lady Devil will visit Chuckey-Doak on Friday. The Black Knights lost 67-28 in Erwin on Dec. 7, but were without their starting post (concussion) and have since gotten a Greeneville transfer eligible at guard. The varsity game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.