From Staff Reports
Another regular season is in the books for the Unicoi County High School girls basketball program – and it ended on a high note.
The Lady Devils (18-8, 9-3) have won their last five games and nine of the 12 games they have played since the start of the new year.
“We have hit our stride during the second half of the season,” Lady Devil head coach Kerri King said. “The girls have really worked hard to improve with each game. I am proud of their effort.”
Last week, the Lady Devils avenged a previous Three Rivers Conference loss and thumped a team they barely beat earlier this season.
On Tuesday, Feb. 6, UCHS defeated Sullivan Central – the top team in their league – in Erwin. Central defeated the Lady Devils, 55-34, during their first meeting on Jan. 12.
“How we played last week is more a reflection of who we are than the first time we played them,” King said.
Using an up tempo game, UCHS raced out to a 19-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. The ladies carried that six point lead, now 35-29, into halftime.
The lead reached double figures, 46-34, by the three-minute mark in the third quarter. However, Central closed the quarter on a 10-4 run and cut the lead to six points, 50-44, once again at the end of the quarter.
The Lady Cougars made a push in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Devils held them off to earn the 70-64 victory in their last conference game of the season.
“It was good to close out the conference season with a win,” King said.
Kaitlin Bailey scored 25 points and had 6 rebounds in the win. Chloe Power scored 16. Kaylee Hendrickson scored 15 and had 4 assists. Halie Padgett scored 12 and had 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Tenley Holt scored 2.
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When they played at Cloudland in December, the Lady Devils had to scrap for a 57-53 win over the Lady Highlanders. The matchup was a different story when the teams played in Erwin on Saturday, Feb. 10.
As they did against Central a few days before, UCHS raced out to an early lead and never looked back. The Lady Devils led 17-8 after one, then 28-18 at halftime.
In the second half, the Lady Devils turned up the defensive intensity and allowed the Lady Highlanders only 7 points. Thanks to that effort, UCHS cruised to a 54-25 victory.
“Everybody contributed against Cloudland,” King said. “We didn’t have a let down in intensity and our defensive effort was very, very good.”
Ashtan Vance provided a spark for the Lady Devils against Cloudland with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Padgett scored 13 points and had 7 rebounds. Hendrickson had 12 points and 6 assists. Powers had 9 points and 3 assists. Holt scored 4 points with 4 rebounds and 3 steals. Allee Griffith scored 2 and had 5 rebounds. Rachel Lynch scored 1.
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With the regular season over, the Lady Devils turn their focus to the District 1-AA tournament being played at Elizabethton High School. UCHS goes into the tournament as the third seed and will play Johnson County – the sixth seed – on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m.
A loss to Johnson County will end the season for UCHS. With a victory over Johnson County, the Lady Devils will face the winner of the Sullivan South (the second seed) and Happy Valley (the seventh seed) game being played on Wednesday, Feb. 14.
Should they advance, the Lady Devils will play South/Happy Valley on Saturday, Feb. 17, at 3:30 p.m. A win in that game advances them to the championship game being played on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. A loss in that game sends them to the consolation game to be played on Monday at 6 p.m.
Sullivan Central, the tournament’s top seed, will play the winner of the Sullivan East (the four seed) and Elizabethton (the five seed) game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The winner of that semifinal game will go to the championship; the loser will go to the consolation game.