From Staff Reports
The Unicoi County High School girls varsity basketball team (2-9, 0-2) was still looking for its first win since Nov. 19 as of The Erwin Record’s press deadline for the Dec. 14 issue.
As has been the case with the ladies since they defeated Cherokee in Erwin last month, they found themselves on the losing end of two games in which they had gone toe-to-toe with their opponents.
“We have cleaned up different aspects of our game along the way,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said in an interview with The Erwin Record. “We haven’t been mature enough or focused enough to put together a full game in every aspect. Early in the season we were giving other teams – because of lack of focus and lack of effort defensively – too many free throws.
“We worked on our defense and are playing better defense in our last several games. Now, we are missing easy shots in multiple games. I still don’t feel we have played a complete game yet. But, I do believe it will come together for us. We are staying positive and are continuing to work hard.”
King said she believes her team can bounce back from the adversity of the first part of the season.
“If you had asked me if I wanted this messy of a record in order to give our players adversity and make them grow up, obviously I would have said no,” King said. “This is beyond what I would want to make a team more seasoned. The only reason this could affect us in a negative way is if we come through it and don’t think we are a good team. We don’t feel like that. We know we can still meet the goals we set for ourselves.
“If we were down as a team because of our record, I would be worried. But, I’m not because the girls are staying positive and working hard. At some point we have to turn the corner and play the way we are capable of playing and we will.”
The Lady Devils welcomed Three Rivers Conference foe Sullivan East to Erwin on Friday, Dec. 9, and saw a second quarter 10-point lead slip out of their fingers as they fell to the Lady Patriots, 50-45.
A balanced offensive attack and good defensive effort propelled UCHS to a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter against East. Neelee Griffith, Kaylee Hendrickson, Chloe Powers, Ashley Edwards and Halie Padgett all contributed points for the team in the opening quarter.
UCHS led 20-14 with 3 minutes to play in the first half and maintained a 4-point lead, 24-20, at halftime.
“We had multiple possessions where we turned the ball over,” King said of what helped East make a run to chip away at the lead.
East’s offense started rolling in the third quarter, scoring 18 points and overtaking UCHS to hold a 38-34 lead going into the final eight minutes.
“We opened the third quarter by not getting a stop on defense and allowed them to score, then we turned the ball over and they scored,” King said. “This allowed them to go on a run, get momentum and take the lead.”
The Lady Devils closed the gap to 1 point, 46-45, thanks to three 3-pointers by Hendrickson in the fourth quarter; however, the Lady Patriots hit enough free throws to win the game 50-45.
“Even though we lost the lead we still get scrapping to stay in the game,” King said. “We did a good job late in the game running sets and finding shooters. We did a good job of finding Kaylee in the fourth quarter.”
Despite being 0-2 in the conference after losing to East and to Sullivan South on Dec. 2, King said her team remains intent on finishing in the top half of the standings.
“The team has had conversations about how it is important to finish in the top half of the conference,” she added. “We still have our minds set on doing that; it is doable for us and we are not giving up on that.”
Hendrickson paced the Lady Devils with 16 points (4 3-pointers) and 3 assists. Padgett scored 12 points to go along with 5 rebounds. Powers scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) and had 6 rebounds. Edwards and Griffith had 4 points and 8 rebounds each. Kenedy King and Kaitlin Bailey had 2 points and 4 rebounds each.
• • •
On a night when the team struggled shooting the ball, no Lady Devils reached double figures as the team lost to Hampton, 46-33, for the second time this season.
According to King, the Lady Devils were 1-19 from the field and 3-10 from three-point land in the first half against Hampton. The rough first half for the ladies resulted in the Lady Bulldogs taking a 18-point lead, 31-13, into halftime.
“For the past several games we had been playing good defense and we didn’t do that at the start of the game against Hampton,” King said.
The Lady Devils weren’t going to go down without a fight, though. They came out and got after the Lady Bulldogs on the defensive end of the floor in the third quarter, cutting the lead to single digits at one point; however, missing shots in the paint again kept UCHS from catching up to Hampton.
“Our defense was able to force turnovers and get stops in the third quarter and that helped us cut into their lead,” King said.
The Lady Devils kept battling in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t regain the lead as Hampton won the game.
Powers paced UCHS with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Edwards also scored 7 points (1 3-pointer) in the game. King scored 5 points (1 3-pointer) to go along with 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Hendrickson scored 5 (1 3-pointer) with 4 rebounds. Padgett scored 4 points and had 5 rebounds. Griffith scored 3 points (1 3-pointer) with 5 rebounds. Allee Griffith scored 2 points.
• • •
The Lady Devils faced Science Hill in Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
They will not return to the court until after Christmas. They will participate in the Cleveland Holiday Classic Powered by Under Armour at Cleveland High School beginning Wednesday, Dec. 28. On that day, they will face Warren County at noon.
The Lady Devils will play Cleveland at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 and Red Bank at 1 p.m. on Dec. 30.
UCHS returns to Three Rivers Conference play on Jan. 3 when they host Johnson County.