From Staff Reports
Most local coaches would agree that Cloudland High School is a tough place to get a win.
But that didn’t matter to the Unicoi County High School girls basketball team last week.
Facing the Lady Highlanders in non-conference action on Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Lady Devils (8-4, 2-1) overcame a deficit in the second half to earn a 57-53 win.
“I feel like that was a huge win for us,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said. “Even though it was a non-conference game and some people would think it’s just a win or a loss on your schedule, we haven’t won up there in a really long time.”
Each team got off to a slow start offensively with the Lady Highlanders taking a 3-2 lead before the Lady Devils went on a 15-5 run to lead 17-8 at the end of the first quarter. Halie Padgett, Chloe Powers and Kayle Hendrickson each scored 5 points in the run.
Following a three-point play by Powers to start the quarter, the Lady Devils scored only 3 more points the rest of the quarter – 2 more by Powers and 1 by Kenedy King. Cloudland, meanwhile, got rolling offensively as they scored 18 points to take a 26-23 lead at halftime.
Powers providved a spark for the Lady Devils in the third quarter – hitting a three-pointer on three consecutive possessions to give the Lady Devils a 33-28 lead. Once again, the Lady Highlanders answered the Lady Devils’ run with one of their own and led 40-37 at the end of the third quarter.
King helped UCHS tie the game less than a minute into the final quarter. First, she found Padgett under in the paint for a basket. Then, after a basket by Cloudland’s Megan Lunsford, King nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 42.
Hendrickson then found Kaitlin Bailey for a basket and a 44-42 UCHS lead. Padgett then scored 6 points off of free throws to give the Lady Devils a 50-42 lead with just over 5 minutes to play in the game.
The Lady Highlanders had one more run left in them and they used it to tie the game at 50 with less than 3 minutes to play. Neither team scored again until Hendrickson hit a layup to put UCHS in the lead for good. Padgett, Hendrickson and Bailey each hit free throws in the final minute to seal the victory for the Lady Devils.
“The way we got out to a lead and had to stop and run and come back – all of that shows how our team has grown,” King said. “That is a win that in previous times with this team that we wouldn’t have been able to get.”
Padgett had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Powers scored 19 points, including 4 three-pointers, and 5 rebounds. Hendrickson had 9 points, 3 assists and 3 steals. Bailey scored 6 and had 4 rebounds. King scored 4 with 3 assists and 2 steals.
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The Lady Devils traveled to Cleveland, Tennessee, for a tournament being played from Wednesday, Dec. 27, through Friday, Dec. 29. The team will play its first game at 1 p.m. on Wednesday against Signal Mountain.
With a win, the Lady Devils will play either Cleveland or Sequoyah on Thursday at 7 p.m. With a loss, they will play on Thursday at 1 p.m. Friday’s game time and opponent will be determined by Thursday’s results.
“It’s refreshing to go somewhere and play teams that you don’t see all the time and just play free,” King said. “The teams that are in that tournament have size and have different skill sets than teams we typically see here. I think that will help us during tournament time, especially if we advance to the regional.”
The Lady Devils will face Science Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 2, at the Devils’ Den in Erwin. The team will start a stretch of important Three Rivers Conference contests on Friday, Jan. 5, at home against Sullivan East. The junior varsity team will not face Science Hill, but will face Sullivan East at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 5. The Lady Devil varsity squad is scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. each evening.