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Lady Devils fall in opening round

A furious fourth quarter rally wouldn’t be enough to bounce back from a sluggish start second quarter by the Lady Devils.
The Unicoi County High School girls’ basketball team opened the first quarter leading 15-11, but were limited to one bucket in the second quarter as the squad fell to Sullivan Central, 34-32, in the first round of the annual Johnson City Honda Classic on Monday, Dec. 28, at Daniel Boone High School.
The Lady Devils (4-10) continued tournament play on Tuesday, Dec. 29, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline against Cherokee. The team will conclude pool play on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 5 p.m. against Unaka. The final day of the tournament is set for Thursday, Dec. 31.
Against Sulliva, Central on Monday, head coach Kerri King and company rode the early momentum of a first quarter lead, but were outscored 12-2 heading to the second half to trail, 23-17.
“I felt like we played a hideous first half,” King said. “We had a gameplan going in, but didn’t execute it.”
Hannah Rice (nine points) got things going early for UCHS in the third with the first bucket of the frame at the 6:07 mark. The Lady Cougars went on to pull out a 7-2 run to end the quarter on top, 30-21.
UCHS started to make some noise in fourth. Neelee Griffith opened the scoring for the Lady Devils with two shots from the charity stripe and Ashley Edwards tacked on a 3-pointer to pull the team within three, 32-29.
While UCHS kept clawing, Sullivan Central stood their ground by milking the clock with their lead, forcing the Lady Devils to foul and send the Cougars to the charity stripe.
Late defense did pay dividends for King’s girls. Lady Devil Kenedy King picked up a steal with 1:28 left and nabbed the breakaway bucket to pull the team within four points, 33-29.
Central went down to knock in the second shot of the double bonus from the free-throw line, giving the ladies an opportunity with seconds left on the clock.
Freshman Kaylee Hendrickson also added a late steal for UCHS.
Senior Ashlie Padgett drilled a 3-pointer for UCHS, but time would fall short to give the Lady Cougars the win.
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The Lady Devils are looking to get back on the positive side of the win-loss column before heading into the new year. UCHS was riding a five-game losing streak before The Erwin Record’s press deadline.
“You are in a season and having rough spots … you’re either going to use that for momentum to get better or let it beat you down,” King said. “Until we have accountability for the way we’re playing, it isn’t going to get better.”
Sullivan Central was led by Sydney Hurd with 10 points.
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Rice secured a career milestone during Monday’s contest with her final point total putting her at the 1,000-point plateau for her career.
The senior point guard for UCHS had also secured a total of 250 rebounds, steals and assists throughout her career in the Devils’ Den.