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Devils survive late rally by South

The Unicoi County High School boys’ basketball team withstood a late run by the Sullivan South Rebels on Friday, Dec. 4, to earn a 53-49 victory over the defending Three Rivers Conference regular season champions at the Devils’ Den.
The game was the first conference matchup of the season for head coach Michael Smith and his Blue Devils.
“We’ll take the win anytime,” Smith said. “It’s good to be back in the win column, but the way the game ended was not very good for us if that’s what we’re going to do in the future in the fourth quarter.”
UCHS (4-3, TRC 1-0) had three players reach double figure scoring, but the Rebels were able to make things interesting late in the contest.
Trailing 52-39 with 90 seconds left in the game, Sullivan South (1-5, 0-1) used a pair of Blue Devil turnovers and back-to-back 3-pointers from Evan Morris and Garrett Bowery to cut the lead to seven points, 52-45. Another shot from beyond the arc fell for the Rebels as time expired.
“I was proud of our guys effort,” Rebel head coach Mark Pendleton said. “I thought defensively, the entire game, was great. We got some big stops throughout the game. We did a good job on their scorers during that stretch, but (Trevor) Hensley and (Dylan) Putman got loose on us there in the third quarter and that hurt. We just ran out of time and ran out of timeouts.”
The third quarter proved to be a pivotal moment for the Blue Devils after a back-and-forth battle saw UCHS head to halftime with a 20-19 lead.
After trading buckets throughout the third frame, Putman (13 points) chipped in six points on a 7-0 run by UCHS in the final two minutes of the third to give the team a 37-30 advantage heading to the fourth.
“We played OK in the first half, as far as effort goes” Smith said, “but we didn’t exactly play smart – we had about 10 turnovers in the first half and gave up nine offensive boards. We cleaned that up and I think that’s what helped us build the lead in the third quarter.”
Hensley carried the offensive load in the first half, scoring 14 of his game-high 22 points for the Blue Devils.
With just two other players hitting the score column earlier, the Blue Devils netted three in double figures with Hensley, Putman and Jacob Smith (10 points, 12 rebounds).
“We’re not going to win anything with just one guy scoring over 20 points,” Smith said. “We’ve got to have that type of balance offensively.”
Dalton Spears and Clay Simpson chipped in a bucket each, while Brandon Caldwell and Chase McNabb added a free throw.
Grant Phebus led Sullivan South with 14 points, while Bowery and Morris reached double figures with 13 points each.
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The Blue Devil junior varsity team followed the same beat as their varsity counterparts Friday night.
UCHS opened the underclassmen stretch of the season by taking a 45-42 victory over the Rebels.
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UCHS opened last week on Tuesday, Dec. 1, with a 59-44 loss in non-conference action to Science Hill in Erwin.
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The Blue Devils opened this week with a trip to Roan Mountain against Cloudland on Tuesday, Dec. 8, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
UCHS aims to stay perfect in the league with a Bluff City bout against Sullivan East on Friday, Dec. 11, before ending the week with a trip to Hampton on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Junior varsity opens each night with start times set for 5 p.m., while the varsity is scheduled to take the court at 8 p.m.