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Devils drop to third in conference race

When the Cyclones needed a bump, Michael Robinson shoved them into the second seed of the conference.
The Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team made things interesting in the late stages of the fourth quarter, but was unable to battle back in a 57-48 loss to Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 5, in a highly-contested Three Rivers Conference bout in Carter County.
Robinson paced the Cyclones with a game-high 35 points and helped his team take a 15-point lead in the fourth before the Blue Devils (15-10, TRC 8-3) were able to make a late run to cut into the deficit.
“I feel like we played hard, but we just didn’t play that smart,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “We did a good job late by hitting some shots to cut it down to four after being down 15 points. We had a chance, but we couldn’t hit one late to put us over the top and then we had to foul. The effort was there, I can’t fault our guys for that; we just couldn’t make some shots when we needed them, like the (Sullivan) East game.”
Sophomore Trevor Hensley, who scored a team-high 21 points, helped the Blue Devils stay within striking distance, popping 3-pointers at key moments to stall runs by the Cyclones in the second half.
“He takes it personally and wants to be the best player,” Smith said of the sophomore’s effort. “He did a good job of trying to answer the bell … he missed a couple of free throws, which was uncharacteristic, but there late he started to feel it.”
Dylan Putman and Chase McNabb drilled late shots from behind the arc in the fourth, but the Cyclones would wade the rough patch to seal up the contest from the charity stripe.
Putman tacked on 14 points for the Blue Devils, while Jacob Smith added six points. Hunter Hensley added a bucket and Dalton Spears and Clay Simpson added a free-throw each to wrap up the scoring for the team.
Bo Pless joined Robinson in double figures with 15 points for the Cyclones.
Smith said the team’s sights are set for the remainder of the regular season. The Blue Devils currently hold the third seed in the league with a possibility still looming of sneaking into the second place spot if the Cyclones were to get upset in the final stretch of conference games.
“We told the guys after the game we have three regular season games to go,” he added. “We want to win out, and as long as we win the first round of the district tournament we could play Elizabethton again.”
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The Blue Devils coasted to an easy conference victory in Kingsport behind four players reaching double figures.
UCHS was never threatened on Tuesday, Feb. 2, en route to a 75-34 victory over Sullivan North.
McNabb led all scorers with 14 points on the night. He was joined in double figures by Trevor Hensley and Putman, with 12 points each, and Smith, who added 11 points in the paint.
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UCHS is scheduled to face Cloudland at the Devils’ Den on Thursday, Feb. 11. The team’s seniors will be honored between the girls’ and boys’ varsity games.
The Blue Devils cap off the week with their final conference game of the regular season against Happy Valley on Friday, Feb. 12. The Blue Devils will conclude the regular season at home against Hampton on Monday, Feb. 15.
The junior varsity team is scheduled to play at 5 p.m. with varsity wrapping up the night at 8 p.m. both days.