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Lady Devils clinch third seed

The Unicoi County High School Lady Devil basketball team improved to 13-11 overall this season and 7-4 in the Three Rivers Conference with a 61-44 victory over Sullivan South on Friday, Jan. 30, in Erwin.
With the District 1-AA tournament approaching, head coach Kerri King knew the importance of holding off a potential upset bid from Sullivan South inside the Devils Den.
“I don’t think our press was effective as far as determining what they did,” King said, “but I thought it was more effective in getting our team moving. Not necessary to come up with a turnover, but just upping the intensity.”
Both teams traded shots in first quarter with the Lady Blue Devils coming out with the 14-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Lady Rebels fired out of the gates to open the second on a 9-3 run that was capped off by a Brayden Hutchins bucket. The Lady Rebels held a 19-17 lead with 5:35 remaining in the half.
Rice showed the intensity King spoke of, often getting ahead on fast breaks to score nine of her first half 11 points in the second quarter. Chelsey Harness and Neelee Griffith hit a back-to-back stretch of buckets to give UCHS the 31-26 advantage at halftime.
Griffith finished with four assists and said the intensity, especially in the second half, was the determining factor in the triumph.
“We didn’t play as hard as we should have in the first half,” she said, “and we needed to pick it up in the second if we were going to win. This is a big win for us. We only have two losses to Elizabethton and we’re showing that we can play with anybody if we’re on our game each night.”
Harness led the way on the court with 18 points and 13 boards.
“I feel like this is a good place for us to be in the conference now,” Harness said. “I think we came out and showed everybody we deserve the place we get and we’re going to play hard in the districts.”
Rice had 17 points, five assists and four steals. Emily Lynch scored seven. Morgan Lee Brown and Destinie Hayes scored six points each. Griffith had four and Haley Webb had three.
Hutchins led the Lady ‘Rebs with 17 points.
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The Lady Devils made things interesting with the defending Class AA champions on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
The Lady Blue Devils trailed by a point at the end of the first quarter, but the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones would rally in the second half and go on to score the 62-47 win.
Webb led King’s team with nine points. Hayes and Rice finished with eight points each. Rice also finished with a team-high seven assists.
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Barring any upset bid from Johnson County on Tuesday, Feb.3, the Lady Blue Devils will hold the third seed heading into the District 1-AA tournament scheduled to begin Feb. 11 at Sullivan East High School. The Lady Devils will not play until Feb. 13.
Standings as of Feb. 2 had Elizabethton with the top seed and Sullivan East sitting at the second spot. The Lady Devils are third with Happy Valley as the fourth seed. South, Johnson County and Sullivan North are battling for the final three spots.
The Lady Blue Devils split with both the Lady Patriots and Lady Warriors this season, but Sullivan East was able to score the sweep over Happy Valley with their win, also on Friday, at home, 77-64.
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A road gauntlet awaits UCHS to cap off the regular season.
The Lady Blue Devils will travel to David Crockett on Friday, Feb. 6, then make the trip to Roan Mountain the next day to face Cloudland High School in non-conference action. The final regular season game takes place on Monday, Feb. 9, in Carter County against Hampton High School.
Varsity hoops tip off at 6:30 p.m. each night.