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Dugger hands Jr. Blue Devils close loss

Injuries and inexperience haven’t stopped the Unicoi County Middle School Jr. Blue Devil basketball team from keeping pace inside its conference.
The Jr. Blue Devil varsity team fell in a highly contested affair with T.A. Dugger, 32-26, on Tuesday, Dec. 2, in Erwin.
“We are playing really hard, which I’m very pleased with,” UCMS head coach Ken Hilliard said. “We’ve lost two starters for the year from injuries and we’ve had to readjust and rework the way we’re doing things, including me. We’re trying to find a way to score enough points. “Defensively, we’re pretty good. Rebounding, we’re good, handling the ball we’re okay, we just have to find a way to put some points on the board. If we can find that magic potion to put the ball in the basket, we’ll be fine.”
An offensive consistent has been Brett Strother, Hilliard said. Strother finished with a game-high 14 points against T.A. Dugger.
“My team captain is Brett Strother,” Hilliard added. “He’s going to be an extremely good player in high school. The good parts that I’m seeing are the other fellas are much more dedicated and inclined and working real hard since the season started. I think in high school, this group will be fine. They’re just trying to find their own way on what it is they do, and do well, but I’m pleased with the effort they are giving so far.”
Gavin Casey and Danny Lowery added four points each against T.A. Dugger. UCMS only scored four points in the third quarter – thanks to a three-pointer by Ty Thelen and a foul shot by Austin O’Dell.
“They’re going to get better,” Hilliard said. “Role definition has been different from last year. Their skills are getting better and they’ll be fine, it is just about building up the skill level during the year and they’ll do that.”
Eric Wilson led the Cyclones with eight points.
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The Jr. Blue Devils opened this week on Tuesday, Dec. 9, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline against Vance.
The Jr. Blue Devils will host John Sevier on Thursday, Dec. 11, before taking part in the annual Trailblazer Classic tournament to be held at Daniel Boone High School next week.
Junior varsity opens the night against Sevier at 4:30 p.m. with varsity to follow.