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Despite illness, injury Jr. Blue Devil defeat Hampton

The Unicoi County Middle School boys’ basketball program competed in the annual Trailblazer Classic at Daniel Boone High School last week and will have a break for the remainder of the year before opening back up play on Jan. 8
“Everything that could happen, did happen,” Hilliard said about the tournament. “We were decimated by injury and illness the entire way.”
During the final night for UCMS, the Jr. Blue Devils resorted to having to use a primary junior varsity oriented team due to the flu and other circumstances limiting players’ participation in the tournament. To the team’s credit, Hilliard explained, UCMS defeated Hampton Elementary’s varsity squad to end the tourney on a high note.
The ceiling is high for the team, Hilliard said, with the second half of the season just around the bend.
“Those last two weeks heading in the tournament I thought we were playing well,” he added. “We split with the teams that were tied for second place. If we can keep up this intensity with all our players, we have a chance to turn things around for the second half of the season.”
And the task is tall coming back from the break as the team will square off against Greeneville Middle School, who reigns atop the Middle Eight Conference and is unscathed in league play.
“Greeneville’s a very talent team,” Hilliard said. “They are much improved from last year. But, I feel if we can keep up our level of play heading into that game, we have a chance to keep it close.
“This team has the chance to upset a couple of teams when the conference tournament comes around. They’ve improved a lot since the start of the year. They are playing much better and I’ve been pleased with their effort.”
The team is led by the hot-hand of eighth-grader Brett Strother. Austin O’Dell and Danny Lowery compliment from the outside, with Ty Thelen posing a threat while Drew Keasling helps patrol inside the paint. Noah Mason will look to see an increased role after returning from injury.