By Trey Williams
The arrivals of freshmen Allie Lingerfelt and Faith Bennett were going to smooth the transition while replacing Ashtan Vance, a senior on last season’s Unicoi County girls basketball team.
But this season appears it will be a constant adjustment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lingerfelt, a guard adept at setting up teammates, had already had a double-digit scoring performance during an encouraging three-game debut when she had to begin taking a 14-day break for COVID exposure on Friday, Nov. 27.
Starter Leah Edney began a 14-day layoff on Sunday, Nov. 29, the day students found out Unicoi County schools would return to remote-only learning until January.
Senior leading scorer Caroline Podvin says the online classroom is doable, and she’s just thankful to be playing basketball.
“As long as we can keep playing basketball I don’t really mind it,” said Podvin, who is impressed with her freshmen teammates. “We lost Ashtan, who got a lot of shots off and stuff. But we have Allie – she’ll be back – and she’s really good. She’ll help fill in that gap.
“Faith and Allie were really good coming up. They’ll really help us out.”
Being without Lingerfelt and fellow guard Edney will likely make the Blue Devils’ lineup bigger.
“Leah was starting last year and she’s really good this year,” Podvin said. “Our bench is more post players with, like, Laurel and Olivia. So with them out I think they’ll get a lot more playing time, which kind of switches us up from guard play to more post play. It can switch up all the time, but that’s what it looks like for this week, at least.”
The Blue Devils (2-3) lost three of four games last week in the Food City Thanksgiving Classic in Bluff City. They defeated Hampton 56-34 and lost 51-50 to Cloudland. A 63-26 loss to Dobyns-Bennett on Saturday came without the services of Lingerfelt.
Of course, Unicoi was also minus Lingerfelt against Hampton. Senior guard Tenley Holt had a key role in that win.
“Tenley had a really good game,” Podvin said. “That was the first game without Allie. Allie’s really high on assists, which is something we’ll miss.”
Unicoi was scheduled to host Cloudland on Tuesday and Happy Valley on Friday, Dec. 4, in the Three Rivers Conference opener.
Holt and Edney each hit a game-winner last season during the Blue Devils’ regular-season sweep of the Warriors, who got revenge by ending Unicoi’s season with a district tournament win.