In a tournament traditionally dominated by teams from the Three Rivers Conference, two conference powerhouses were upset in their first games of the Hardees Classic.
Both Unicoi County and Sullivan East were knocked out of championship contention in the first round of the annual tournament played last week at David Crockett High School.
The Blue Devils (2-3) lost all three of their games in the Hardees Classic, including a 65-61 loss to Sullivan South on Saturday, Nov. 24, in their final game of the tournament.
The Devils entered the final game after dropping a 66-49 contest on Friday against the Happy Valley Warriors under first-year head coach Chuck Babb.
Scoring 13 unanswered points during the third quarter helped the Warriors expand their 25-18 halftime lead and go on to win the game.
The Blue Devils had trouble getting in a groove shooting from the perimeter and shot 4-22 from behind the arc.
We didnt shoot the ball well in these three games. We need to focus better and get more shots in at practice, head coach Michael Smith said. We need to work together to help create better shots for each other. Our chemistry isnt where it needs to be.
The Blue Devils also have to improve on the defensive end, according to Smith.
We need to stay focused and play for 32 minutes, play hard and end defensive possessions with rebounds, he said. We also need to work on the defensive end to create more turnovers and easy baskets.
Lucas Hensley scored in double figures with 13 points, while Ethan Rice chipped in 10 points in the loss.
The Warriors were led by Kelton Brzostowskis 20-point effort. Corey Matherly also chipped in 10 for the winning squad.
UCHS opened up the tournament with a loss to University High, 60-47, on Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Three Blue Devils scored in double figures against University High. Nic Chambers led the scorers with 12 points. Rice fired in 11 points, while Keith Arrowood tallied in 10 points.
Greeneville High School won the Hardees Classic with a 74-63 victory over University High Saturday night.
Sullivan East finished in fifth place after their win over Happy Valley on Saturday.
Unicoi County will look to get back on track this week with a full slate of games.
The Blue Devils will open up the week on Tuesday, Nov. 27, against Unaka High School, who also had a surprise win in the Hardees Classic by knocking off Sullivan South in the opening round of the tournament.
The Blue Devil junior varsity will be in action at 5 p.m.; the varsity action will be at 8 p.m.
The Blue Devils will then enter a two-game stretch on the weekend against Big Eight Conference schools.
They will face Daniel Boone at Tennessee High on Friday, Nov. 30, then will travel to Daniel Boone the following day to face off against Tennessee High at Daniel Boone.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
By Curtis Carden