By Trey Williams
A year after missing a potential game-winner against Sullivan South, Unicoi County’s Caroline Podvin didn’t miss a shot at redemption.
Podvin got an offensive rebound, took a couple of dribbles and banked in a short shot with some six seconds remaining and the Blue Devils held on for a 39-38 win against Sullivan South on Friday, Dec. 13, in Erwin.
The victory improved the Lady Devils to 2-0 in the league and 9-3 overall. Tenley Holt had parlayed a rebound into a driving game-winner in the Lady Devils’ conference opener at Happy Valley the previous week, and an inbounds-underneath play was designed for her against South in a timeout huddle with 13 seconds left.
But Holt’s shot rimmed out, Podvin grabbed the board and instincts took over.
“Caroline brought it the length of the floor with her left hand and the shot came up a little short right there at the end,” UCHS coach Kerri King said. “So I think she was glad to have some redemption knocking this one down.”
Every Three Rivers Conference victory feels like redemption for the Lady Devils after being picked to finish last in the league.
“We were going in undersized and kind of an underdog,” Podvin said. “So we just go in really motivated.”
The 5-foot-10 Podvin has grown into her frontcourt role, but she’s still adept at putting the ball on the floor at crunch time. She played point guard for the majority of her youth.
“In middle school I was pretty short,” Podvin said. “I grew about five inches. I can do all of the positions, whatever Coach King needs me to do.”
Having an older brother, Troy, who is now a sophomore baseball player at Milligan College, aided her growth, too. Carolina said it enhanced her mental toughness, and having an athletic brother and a goal in the driveway helped make for a memorable childhood.
“It made it a lot of fun for me,” Caroline said. “We used to play a lot together – just like in the yard. He’s always been bigger than me, and now it’s always fun to get against people bigger than me.”
Podvin and King were quick to credit Ashtan Vance for her defense on South shooting guard Alex Harris.
“We just tried to deny Harris the ball,” King said. “We played them in the district tournament last year and she just lit us up. She’ll step off a screen and take a shot. If you switch and you’re back just a little bit – she’s just a great shooter. Ashtan did a really good job just face-guarding her the whole time. We held her to seven.”
It took a balanced effort to eke one out against the Rebels.
“Ashtan played well in the first half against South,” King said. “And Tenley didn’t have any points at all until the fourth quarter and then she played well in the fourth quarter. Caroline was more balanced throughout the game. We had a couple of freshmen (Abigail Rush, Jocelyn Metcalf) come off the bench to knock down threes. … And Laurel Osborne, a little freshman, had six rebounds.”
Podvin led Unicoi with 14 points against the Rebels. Vance and Holt added 10 and eight, respectively
The Lady Devils opened the week with a 55-29 home win against Hampton, on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Vance and Holt scored 15 points apiece and helped make quick work of the Bulldogs.
“We came out strong right away,” Podvin said. “It was kind of good to let younger players get in and see what varsity games are like.”
It was a relatively crisp performance against Hampton, which had lost 47-38 to UCHS in a Thanksgiving tournament at Sullivan East.
“We’re working on trying to get a deeper rotation and the game plan not falling apart when they go in,” King said. “I thought we did a great job of executing in that game Tuesday.”
The Lady Devils are off until opening a tournament on Dec. 26 against host Maryville, which is big and talented.
“They’re just huge. We don’t have a post game and their guards are about Caroline’s size,” said King, who anticipates the huge challenge improving her team in the long run.
Indeed, Podvin says, such seasoning can help down the road.
“It’s really a goal for us to get the regional,” she said. “We think we have a good chance, especially coming in with two conference wins right away.”
The tournament in Maryville will continue on Dec. 27-28.