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Knights avenge earlier loss to Devils

Revenge was on the minds of the boys from Afton.
The gameplan was just right for the Unicoi County High School Blue Devil basketball team, but a late run by the Chuckey-Doak Black Knights and some missed opportunities at the charity stripe by the Blue Devils proved to be enough to give the Black Knights the victory.
The Blue Devils (4-9, 0-2) dropped their game against Chuckey-Doak High School, 57-50, in the opening round of the New People’s Bank Holiday Classic hosted at Sullivan North High on Thursday, Dec. 27. The game marked the second time this season the teams have met. The Blue Devils defeated the Black Knights just before Christmas break, 65-63.
“They were able to hit their free throws and and some shots late,” UCHS head coach Michael Smith said. “I thought we put ourselves in a good position late, but give Doak credit, they got the job done.”
Connor Simpson paced the Blue Devils early with a 13-point effort in the first half to put Unicoi County up, 27-26, at halftime.
Simpson (17 points) and fellow big man in the paint, Nic Chambers (eight points), did the damage for Unicoi County on the offensive side of the court, and did what they needed to do in the paint with 15 boards combined, according to Smith.
“I thought they did a great job of going after the ball when rebounding,” he added. “Connor (Simpson) is really starting to become more of an offensive threat as the season goes on and really helped keep us in the game early. Nic (Chambers) has always been big for us offensively.
“We just need to work on some of the smaller things, and hit our foul shots.”
The second half went back and forth between the squads, with the third quarter ending in a 35-35 deadlock after Zach Thelan tossed up a shot from the charity stripe for Unicoi County.
Free throws from Ben Gridley gave Doak a 37-35 lead with 7:30 left in the fourth.
A foul shot from Chambers and basket from Lucas Hensley had the game knotted back up at 38-38 after a Corey Swinney foul shot for the Black Knights.
Austin Green drilled a three-pointer with 4:25 left in the quarter to give UCHS a 43-41 lead, but the Black Knights kicked it into high gear to end the game on a 15-7 run.
“We had some breakdowns defensively late that really put us down and couldn’t finish,” Smith said. “The little things cost us.”
The win was a full team effort, according to CDHS head coach Sam Broyles.
“We got shots late from Garrett (Johnson) and Ben (Gridley) that really helped push us over the top,” he said. “Unicoi County is a good team and our main focus was trying to contain their ‘bigs’ in the paint. They were big in our last game against them. Connor (Simpson) is a special player for them and (Nic) Chambers is right there with him.
“We were excited to accept the invitation to this tournament. Any time you can play against some of the top talent in the area is big for your program.”
Gridley and Johnson led Chuckey-Doak with 14 points each.
Lucas Hensley paced the Blue Devils with nine points and five rebounds. Ethan Rice chipped in six points with four steals and four rebounds. Green also came up on the defensive side for Blue Nation by pick-pocketing the Doak offense seven times during the game.
The Blue Devils had their showdown against Elizabethton in the consolation bracket tournament on Friday, Dec. 28, at Sullivan North after The Erwin Record’s holiday deadline.
Be sure to stay up to date with The Erwin Record Sports Facebook page for updates from the New People’s Classic Holiday Classic. The remainder of the tournament will also be featured in the Jan. 8 edition of The Erwin Record.
The Blue Devils will be back in Three Rivers Conference action this week, squaring off against the Happy Valley Warriors on Friday, Jan. 4. The Blue Devils will then host Hampton High School on Saturday night. Varsity action starts at 8 p.m., while junior varsity action kicks off at 5 p.m.
The freshmen Blue Devils will also be in action with a pair of games this week. The Blue Devils will be at Happy Valley on Thursday, Jan. 7. Tip-off for the freshmen game is set for 7 p.m. UCHS will then host Hampton on Saturday. Action on Saturday is set to begin at 2 p.m.

By Curtis Carden
Sports Writer
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