A revamped Elizabethton basketball squad proved to be too much for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devils second contest in Three Rivers Conference play.
The Blue Devils (4-8, 0-2) kept the game close early, but could not overcome a double-digit deficit and fell 57-36 on Friday, Dec. 15, in Carter County.
Friday's win puts Sullivan East and Elizabethton as the two top teams in the conference with undefeated records. The Blue Devils will get their next chance to secure a victory in the conference during the first week of January when they host the Happy Valley Warriors in Erwin.
Against Elizabethton, the Blue Devils opened up the game on a 6-2 run thanks to Keith Arrowood. The Cyclone offense then went on a run of their own. Baskets from Will Robinson and Hunter Combs helped Elizabethton outscore UCHS 16-7 to go into the second quarter with a 19-9 lead.
Arrowood would be the only Blue Devil to reach double-figures with 11 points. Arrowood also had three steals and a pair of rebounds.
The Blue Devils cut the deficit to single digits with Taylor Lafever's free throw and three-pointer at the 5:48 mark in the second quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers from Elizabethton's Alex Baughman and Tyler Nichols opened up a 10-2 run as the first half came to a close.
The Cyclones led 33-19 at halftime.
Elizabethton put their stamp on the contest in the third quarter by holding the Devils scoreless for nearly five minutes. A basket by Arrowood ended the drought at the 3:51 mark.
The Blue Devils kept up the fight in the fourth quarter, outscoring Elizabethton 11-10.
Lafever was the second leading scorer for the Blue Devils with six points while Ethan Rice, Connor Simpson and Nic Chambers cashed in four points.
We didn't show up against Elizabethton, head coach Michael Smith said. We didn't have a great effort at all, especially mentally.
A lack of defensive intensity, offensive mistakes and lack of rebounding plagued the Blue Devils against Elizabethton.
We are still giving up way too many points defensively, Smith said. We also have to do a better job taking care of the ball.
Simpson led Unicoi County in rebounding with seven, while Austin Green hauled in four boards.
The Unicoi County Blue Devils junior varsity squad won their contest against Elizabethton on Friday, by knocking off the Cyclones 46-40.
The Blue Devils snapped their five-game losing streak with a come-from-behind victory over Chuckey-Doak, one of the top teams from District 2, on Saturday night in Afton.
UCHS won the contest 65-63.
Smith said the win over Chuckey-Doak will be helpful to his team's mentality as they go into the Christmas break.
The win should give us confidence, Smith said. Chuckey-Doak has a very good team. But getting a win over any team was important for our mindset as we move forward. The win should help us refocus and recharge.
On Monday, Dec. 10, the Blue Devils hosted Watauga Valley Conference member Cloudland. UCHS kept the game close early, but the Highlanders were able to pull away late for the non-conference victory in Erwin.
I thought we played hard against Cloudland, Smith said. We had a few breakdowns that contributed to their runs, but overall it was a good effort. We just didn't make shots.
The Blue Devils will be off for the week and will be back in action following Christmas in the New Peoples Bank Classic held at Sullivan North High School. The Blue Devils will open the tournament the day after Christmas against Chuckey-Doak.
By Curtis Carden