From Staff Reports
What a difference a few weeks can make.
After defeating the Lady Devil basketball team (2-10, 0-2) 55-34 in Johnson City on Nov. 29, the Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers found themselves in a battle when they visited Unicoi County on Tuesday, Dec. 13.
“We showed a much-improved level of maturity and confidence against Science Hill in the second game,” head coach Kerri King said. “The difference between when we played them the first time to now shows that we are making progress and we are getting to where we want to be.”
The Lady Hilltoppers took an early 5-0 lead, but the Lady Devils survived the slow start and soon found their groove offensively, closing the quarter on a 12-7 run for a 12-12 tie at the end of the first quarter. Ashley Edwards scored 5, Chloe Powers scored 1, Kenedy King scored 3 and Halie Padgett scored 3 for the Lady Devils in the frame.
“I don’t think getting down early in the game is a reflection of how we are going to play,” King said. “Our girls have patience and resilience and stick to what we want to do as the game goes along.”
UCHS continued the balance offense attack in the second quarter, with Padgett, Powers and King all contributing points to give the Lady Devils a 24-18 lead with 2 minutes to play in the first half.
“On any given night we can have post game scoring and outside scoring,” King said. “We have balanced scoring. We just need to find consistency and find what we can rely on all the time.”
However, the Lady Hilltoppers didn’t go quietly into the break as they outscored UCHS 7-2 to close the second quarter. UCHS led 26-25 at the half.
The teams exchanged baskets during the third quarter, with the Lady Hilltoppers taking a 43-42 lead at the end of the frame.
“I don’t think we have come out in a third quarter and taken it to the other team,” King said. “We have had letdowns coming out of halftime, but we didn’t against Science Hill, even when our lineup was a little unorthodox because of foul trouble in the third quarter.”
King praised the Lady Devil guards for handling Science Hill’s pressure during the third and throughout the game, which was an improvement from the first time the teams played.
“We had more than 20 turnovers when we played at Science Hill,” King said. “We only had 13 last week. So, we limited our turnovers and did a great job of handling their pressure. That is a huge improvement. All of our guards stepped up.”
The Lady Devils stayed within striking distance during much of the fourth quarter, trailing 48-47 with 4 minutes to play before Science Hill took a decisive 5-point lead, 54-49, with 3 minutes to play.
Following a timeout by their head coach the Lady Devils had two good looks at the goal, but couldn’t convert on those possessions. The Lady Hilltoppers then scored in transition to take a 56-49 lead.
“Because of their size and depth, we were still battling, but late in the game we had two possessions on defense where we had letdowns,” King said. “Because we were tired we had mental lapses there and they got scores and we didn’t. I felt like that was the difference in the game. But, overall, I thought it was our best total effort.”
King then answered with a 3-pointer, but Science Hill’s players hit their free throws late in the game to leave Erwin with a 61-54 victory.
Key to the Lady Devils’ performance against Science Hill was the play from the bench.
“We had really productive minutes from players off our bench, particularly from our freshmen,” King said. “That is huge for us and it is something we need to have each game.”
Padget scored 19 points and had 7 rebounds to lead UCHS.
“Halie was solid against Science Hill,” King said. “We need that kind of effort out of her like that all the time.”
King scored 9 (2 3-pointers) and had 7 rebounds. Powers also scored 9 (2 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds. Edwards scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) and had 5 rebounds. Kaitlin Bailey scored 6, Neelee Griffith scored 4 and Ashtan Vance scored 2.
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The Lady Devils will participate in the Cleveland Holiday Classic Powered by Under Armour at Cleveland High School beginning today (Wednesday, Dec. 28) when they face Warren County at noon. The Lady Devils will play Cleveland at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 and Red Bank at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30.
UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play on Tuesday, Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County. They will travel to Sullivan North on Friday, Jan. 6, and to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Jan. 10. All Lady Devil varsity games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.; the junior varsity will play at 3:30 p.m. on those days.