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Jr. Blue Devils end season with tournament loss

A late rally came up just short for the Unicoi County Middle School boys’ basketball team.
The Jr. Blue Devils forced the game into overtime, but fell to Ross Robinson, 32-31, in the first round of the Middle 8 Conference tournament on Saturday, Jan. 16, at John Sevier Middle School in Kingsport.
UCMS (9-11) concluded the season with the loss; however, they showed their grit by chipping away against Robinson after a slow start saw the team with a 6-2 deficit at the end of the first quarter. The Blue Devils continued to mount a rally, cutting the lead within a bucket, 11-9, at halftime.
“Truthfully, we didn’t adjust,” UCMS head coach Ken Hilliard said. “We had a gameplan, we had been working on it for two days. We did things tonight defensively we haven’t done all year. We worked on our game plan and the guys just played harder than they had all year long.
“We struggled to make shots lately and that happened today. All we needed was one more bucket and we’re still playing.”
Robinson rattled off a 12-2 run midway through the third period to hold a 28-21 advantage until the Blue Devils were able to mount their defensive comeback.
UCMS held Robinson to just a free throw the entire fourth period. A charge drawn by Blue Devil Boone Reed gave his team life down 29-27 with under a minute to go.
On the ensuing possession, Brett Lingerfelt had Blue Nation on the edge of their seats, knotting things up, 29-29, by knocking down a pair of free throws. UCMS also had a chance at the end of regulation with Brock Thompson coming up with the steal and taking the ball down court with time expiring.
During overtime, Roby Lemmon had the lone bucket for UCMS as the Redskins were able to hold on for the victory.
Lemmon (10 rebounds, eight points) caused havoc on Robinson down low and played an important part in the overall team effort, Hilliard said.
“Roby gets more out of his game more than anyone I know,” he added. “He’s a hustler and a fighter and that’s something you can’t teach. I’m very proud of him.”
UCMS gathered six-point performances from Thompson and Lingerfelt. Caleb Adkins added four points and Reed and Nicholas Hensley added two each.
Saturday’s loss wrapped up a season of growth and experience for the middle schoolers and the high school is getting a steal with the eighth graders coming through the ranks as freshman next season, Hilliard said.
“I love ‘em,” he added about the group. “They played their hearts out. They care about each other, they care about the program and that’s going to make a difference.”
Thompson was named to the conference all-tournament team following the conclusion of the contest.