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Devils earn three consecutive victories

Blue Nation feasted on turnovers to end last week on a high note.
The Unicoi County High School boys’ varsity basketball team limited Sullivan North to just three points in the first quarter and broke away in the second half to earn a 51-25 victory on Friday, Jan. 8, during Three Rivers Conference action in Erwin.
Friday’s win moved the Blue Devils (10-7, TRC 2-1) into a two-way tie with Elizabethton for second place in the league after the Cyclones’ 49-48 loss to league-leading Sullivan East.
Head coach Michael Smith knew the task for the Blue Devils was to not overlook the Golden Raiders, who were pegged during the preseason to fall near the bottom of the standings.
“With North being picked down near the bottom during the preseason … sometimes knowing that isn’t a good thing,” Smith said following the win. “You tend to not play as hard, but I was proud of our effort tonight. We didn’t worry how good our opponent was, we just focused on how good we could be. They did exactly what I asked them to do.”
It all started at the opening tip for the Blue Devils, who took a 24-10 lead into halftime. To open up the second half, the turnovers started to fall into place, while junior Dylan Putman helped spearhead his squad with eight third quarter points. UCHS took the 39-15 lead into the fourth to seal up the victory.
“It was good tonight,” Putman (13 points) said. “We’ve been playing good defense all year, but tonight we really played good defense as a team.”
The early advantage helped ease the pressure in the second half, but Smith was impressed by the second half effort of his squad.
“Our defense really carried us early in the second half,” he said. “We were able to string together three or four turnovers and turn them into easy buckets. We changed our defense from the start of the year from a man to a half court, trapping zone and our guys have adjusted well with it.”
Adjustments have gone in favor of the Blue Devils, who carried over a three-game winning streak into the new year.
“We’re playing a lot better than we did the first half (of the season),” Putman said. “I think we’re just now starting to get the chemistry together.”
Sophomore Trevor Hensley led the Blue Devil offensive attack with 15 points, while Clay Simpson and Jacob Smith caused havoc down low and combined for 12 points.
Hunter Hensley (four points), Chase McNabb (three points) and Gavin Gasey (two points) contributed to the scoring. Brett Strother and Austin O’Dell added a free-throw each.
Tyler Arnold led Sullivan North with seven points.
The Blue Devils ended the week with success, but had fans on the edge of their seats on Tuesday, Jan. 5, in Mountain City. UCHS went down to the wire with Johnson County and pulled away with the 50-49 victory following Trevor Hensley’s game-winning free-throw with 0.3 left on the clock.
UCHS went 13-17 from the charity stripe, including knocking down 8-10 in the fourth to pull away with the win.
Trevor Hensley paced the Blue Devils with 20 points in the victory. Putman and Smith added 11 points each.
The Longhorns were led by a pair of 10-point performances from Brandon Vanhoy and Jose Guzman.
The UCHS junior varsity basketball team had the running clock in the second half and came away with a 58-26 victory over the Golden Raiders on Friday prior to the start of the varsity nightcap.
The Blue Devils rattled off 22 points in the first quarter and never looked back in the rout. Brett Strother, Chase McNabb and Danny Lowery reached double figure scoring with 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Five other Blue Devils reached the scorebook: Austin O’Dell tallied in nine points, Gavin Casey added six, while Ben Hensley, Ty Thelen and Michael Howell combined for five points to round out the scoring.
Johnson County had things rolling in their favor during underclassmen in Mountain City on Tuesday, defeating the Blue Devils by the final score of 64-51. McNabb had the hot hand for UCHS with 19 points and Howell joined his teammate with 12 points to lead the squad in the losing effort.
The Longhorn freshmen team earned a 44-32 over UCHS to open Tuesday’s slate of games.
UCHS competed against Elizabethton in freshman basketball on Monday, Jan. 11, and JV and varsity action on Tuesday, Jan. 12, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
The Blue Devils will end the week with non-conference action against David Crockett on Friday, Jan. 15, in Erwin. The freshmen begin action at 5 p.m. with junior varsity and varsity to follow.
Underclassmen will be in action on Jan. 18, at home against Greeneville with games beginning at 6:30 p.m.