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Lady Devils prep for second half of season

Heartbreaker was the best word to describe last week for the Lady Devils.
Unicoi County (12-5) started off the week with a solid victory over Gate City on Tuesday, Dec. 27, during the Johnson City Honda Classic held at Daniel Boone, but would fall in the next three games to Cloudland, Elizabethton and Hampton during the final three days of the tournament.
Coach Josh Epperson’s girls took care of business during game one, holding off a late rally from the Blue Devils of Gate City, knocking off the Virginia squad 58-46.
Emily Edwards led the scoring efforts with 19 points and knew the importance of coming back into basketball play with a win after a Christmas break.
“It was a big game for us,” Edwards said. “We all had a great Christmas break but it was a good win for us today.
“In the fourth we let them back in it, but we rallied and finished with the win.”
Emmie Thompson’s 12-point performance came on four three-pointers during the early morning game. Both Edwards and Thompson nailed two three-pointers late in the fourth to help the Devils hold off the fourth quarter rally by Kelly Housewight’s Virginia ball-club.
“Those shots were big for us,” Epperson said after the game. “It was big for us to come back off the break and just have a solid performance overall.”
Freshman Tiffany Laughren had her break-out game at the varsity level, scoring six-points and playing important varsity minutes during the contest.
“I thought (Tiffany) had a great game for us,” the Blue Devil coach said. “It’s just helping us see that we can have girls come off the bench and fill in when we need them to.”
The win set up the second round of winners bracket play with Epperson’s crew battling it out with Cloudland, who defeated Unicoi in Roan Mountain earlier this season.
The Highlanders found the recipe for success in game number two, taking down the Lady Devils, 53-46, on Wednesday, Dec. 28.
The ladies from Roan Mountain relied on their inside game, which saw 5’8 sophomore, Courtney Wilson finish her night with a double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds, while 6’2 junior, Brooke Rhodes, wrapped up her night with her own double-double, 12 points and 12 boards, before fouling out late in the fourth.
Unicoi would not go away in the fourth, tying the game at 46, thanks in part to foul shots from Mikayla Bennett, but Birchfield’s Lady Highlander team nailed the their final shots late in the game to seal the win.
Edwards led the scoring again for a second night with 18 points, with Chelsey Gardner following right behind with a 13-point performance.
Thursday’s game would see Unicoi face rival, Elizabethton, who went through a coaching carousel during their games at the Honda Classic, with coach Mike Wilson being unable to coach in the first two games due to a family member’s sickness.
Wilson would make it back to see his girls follow behind a 29-point performance from sophomore point guard, Morgan Depew, and take a-come-from-behind 63-59 win.
Unicoi would end the first half with a 36-20 advantage, but the pep talk put in by coach Wilson must have sparked what the Lady Cyclones needed to pull away with the win.
“I didn’t make any adjustments at the half that would amount to anything,” he explained. “Our kids just decided they were going to win.”
Edwards kept up her successful play from the past two games by securing a 25-point performance in the loss that led all Lady Devil scorers. Bennett’s 11-point game rounded out the leading scorers.
The final game for the Devils saw Hampton, who the Devils defeated earlier in December, come away with a heart-breaking 53-51 win against the Devils on Friday.
Edwards led scorers from Unicoi with 23 points, but was held in check by the Dogs’ defense during the fourth quarter.
Coach Leon Tolley’s Hampton team was led by Dorothy Dugger, who scored 20 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs.
The game experience will be one the Lady Devils will be looking to build on with the second half of the season right around the corner.
“During a game you just don’t have things that go your way,” Epperson explained. “You can’t help that but we can just get back to the basics – improving on our rebounding, shooting and just get back into the swing of things. We play these holiday tournaments to help us improve for the regular season and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Lady Devils will be at home on Monday, Jan. 2, against Unaka after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. Unicoi will then travel to Happy Valley on Friday, Jan. 6, with tip-off slated for 6:30 p.m.