By Richard Rourk
The Unicoi County High School girls basketball team finished the season in streaky fashion.
The Lady Devils (15-10, 6-6) dropped a road game with the Three Rivers Conference leader Sullivan Central, before returning home to beat non-conference foe David Crockett and lose a heartbreaker on senior night against visiting Cloudland.
The Lady Devils traveled to Sullivan County on Feb. 5 to end the undefeated conference streak the Lady Cougars had over the Three Rivers Conference. The Lady Cougars entered the game with a 10-0 conference record. Unfortunately for the Lady Devils, the Lady Cougars remained undefeated in conference play for a few more days, as the Lady Cougars cruised past the Lady Devils 55-30.
The Lady Cougars were led by Abbey Crawford who scored 18 and Peyton Sams who finished with 14 points. The Lady Cougars jumped out to 19-8 first quarter lead and never looked back.
The Lady Devils could not find a shooter to rally behind on the night but they did manage to get several players involved in the game.
“We went 2-23 from the three-point line and we went 9-39 from two-point field goals,” UCHS Lady Devil Coach Kerri King told The Erwin Record.
Sophomore guard Caroline Podvin led the Lady Devils with 9 points and senior guard Kaylee Hendrickson accounted for 5 points in the loss. Senior guard Chloe Powers, senior post Allee Griffith and sophomore guard Tenley Holt each scored 4 points each on the night. Junior guard Ashtan Vance and junior guard Kaylia Street each put up 2 points in the loss.
The loss concluded conference play for the Lady Devils, who finished with a 6-6 record. The Lady Cougars went on to drop their last game of the season to conference rival Elizabethton on Friday, Feb. 8, bringing the Lady Cougars conference record to 11-1.
“We were picked to finish sixth out of seven teams and we finished third,” King said. “I’m proud of their hard work and commitment to each other.”
King and the Lady Devil’s don’t have time to reflect on the season, as tournament time has arrived. “Basketball seasons are long and teams that are resilient finish strong in postseason,” King said. “We fit that trait and we are just refocusing on our first tournament game.”
The final standings for the 2018-2019 Three Rivers Conference are: Sullivan Central, 18-10 (11-1) in first place; Sullivan South, 16-10 (8-4) in second place; Unicoi County, 15-10 (6-6) in third place; Happy Valley, 16-10 (5-7) in fourth place; Elizabethton, 7-21 (5-7) in fifth place; Sullivan East, 13-17 (4-8) in sixth place; and Johnson County, 12-14 (3-9) in seventh place.
The 2019 District 1-AA tournament kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. with a play-in game pitting the Johnson County Lady Longhorns against the Sullivan East Lady Patriots.
The Unicoi County Lady Devils will face the winner of that play-in game on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m. Also playing on Thursday, Feb. 14 are Happy Valley and Elizabethton beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Number one seed Sullivan Central and number two seed Sullivan South received first-round byes. Central will play the winner of the Happy Valley/Elizabethton game on Saturday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. South will play the winner of the Unicoi County versus Sullivan East/Johnson County game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
The district championship game will be played on Monday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. The consolation game will be played on Monday, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m.
All District 1-AA games will be played at Happy Valley High School, 121 Warpath Lane, in Elizabethton.
• • •
The Lady Devils returned home to face their non-conference rival from the other side of the Nolichucky River on Friday, Feb. 8, as the David Crockett Lady Pioneers came to town. The Lady Devils beat the Lady Pioneers 60-43.
The Lady Pioneers went toe to toe with the Lady Devils in the first quarter, but by halftime the Lady Devils had pulled away to lead the game 26-17.
Podvin led the Lady Devils in scoring for the second game in a row and finished with 14 points. Powers had a double-double on the night finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Vance put up 12 points in the victory. Holt had 9 points and Hendrickson accounted for 8 points and 6 assists for the night. Adding 4 points to secure the victory was Griffith.
• • •
On Saturday, Feb. 9, the Lady Devils hosted their second game in less than 24 hours, when the Cloudland Lady Highlanders came into Unicoi for the season finale. UCHS celebrated senior night and hoped for a victory, but lost a heartbreaker to send seniors Hendrickson, Powers and Griffith off. The Lady Highlanders won 45-44.
The Lady Devils could not find a rhythm early and the Lady Highlanders jumped out to a 13-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Lady Devils closed in on the lead and went into halftime trailing the Lady Highlanders by six points.
During the third quarter, the Lady Devils began to look fatigued from playing two games in a 24-hour period. Three-point shots were coming up just a few inches short for the Lady Devils. The Lady Highlanders stretched their lead to 38-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Devils rallied following a key breakaway score from Vance and a three-pointer by Griffith. Holt later missed a three-pointer, but cleared her own board and drew a shooting foul and after sinking the foul shots, cut the lead down to 42-36 in favor of Cloudland.
Griffith sank a basket and drew a foul to complete a three-point play that brought the score to 44-39 with 1:53 left in the fourth. Vance hit a clutch three-pointer to bring the score to 44-42 with 1:40 left, giving the Lady Devils a chance to complete the comeback.
With seconds left and the score at 45-44 in favor of the Lady Highlanders, several Lady Devils put up shots, but none fell and the Lady Highlanders left Unicoi with a one-point victory.
Podvin finished her third game in a row as the leading scorer for the Lady Devils with 11 points. The three seniors who were playing their last regular season home game at the Devils’ Den joined Podvin in leading the Lady Devils in scoring. Powers finished with 10 points, Griffith put up 8 points, and Hendrickson added 5 points to the team’s final score. Vance also had 5 points and Holt had 3 points in the loss. Junior post player Jayla Stockfelt scored 2.