The Unicoi County Middle School Jr. Lady Devil basketball team, pictured above, won the conference championship last week. The team continued play in the area tournament. (Photo contributed by Natalie Bridges)

From Staff Reports

The Unicoi County Middle School varsity girls basketball team brought a championship home last week.

The Jr. Lady Devils opened their conference tournament on Jan. 12 with a 39-5 victory over Bluff City at Blountville. Two days later, the team defeated Sullivan North, 45-9.

“We played really well in the first two games,” Jr. Lady Devil head coach Lauren Trivette said. “Our defense was strong, holding teams to 5 and 9 points. Jocelyn Metcalf hit some big three-pointers for us in both games having 12 in the first game and 13 in the second game. Laurel Osborne and Faith Bennett rebounded hard and got us multiple shot opportunities.”

The victories set up a championship showdown with Holston on Thursday, Jan. 17. Early in this game, things did not go well for the Jr. Lady Devils.

“We struggled early in the championship game,” Trivette said. “Holston ran a triangle-and-two (defense) on us taking away Jocelyn Metcalf and Faith Bennett, who score a lot for me. Allie Lingerfelt worked hard getting to the rim, but just couldn’t get her shot to fall.”

The struggles left Trivette’s team down by 9 points in the fourth quarter. However, the Jr. Lady Devils weren’t going down without a fight.

“We started pressing and Faith got a couple of steals and easy buckets to get us fired up,” Trivette said. “Our intensity came back and we fought back hard to win the game with a great shot by Destiny Bridges with about 10 seconds to go. We played solid defense to force them to take a quick shot that they missed and ended up with a win.”

The Jr. Lady Devils won the game and the championship with a 26-25 victory.

“My girls played their hearts out that game and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the game,” Trivette said. “They have such a desire to win and it showed when they had to come back from being down by 9.”

Bridges led the team in scoring against Holston with 11 points. She and Bennett were named to the all-tournament team. Metcalf was chosen as the tournament’s MVP.

With the conference tournament behind them, the Jr. Lady Devils moved on to the area tournament where they opened play on Saturday, Jan. 19,  at Sevier Middle School in Kingsport. The team defeated Vance, 44-15, to advance in postseason play.

“I had a lot of girls contribute that game,” Trivette said. “Jocelyn Metcalf led the team with 9 points. Laurel Osborne, Faith Bennett and Olivia Bailey all had 8 points. Destiny Bridges had 7.”

The Jr. Lady Devils faced T.A. Dugger in the area tournament at Sevier on Tuesday, Jan. 22, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue.

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Led by head coach Ken Hilliard, the Jr. Blue Devil varsity basketball team took second place in the conference tournament. The Jr. Blue Devils lost to Holston, 36-28, in the championship game. Jr. Blue Devils Lucas Slagle and Sam McGee made the all-tournament team.

“We played very well defensively as a team throughout the tournament,” Hilliard said.

Despite the loss, the team advanced to the area tournament. In that competition, they defeated Vance Middle School, 39-34, on Saturday, Jan. 19. Slagle had 18 points and Grant Hensley had 9. Slagle and McGee both had double-figure rebounds.

Then, UCMS defeated Sevier Middle School, 47-40, on their home floor to stay alive in the postseason on Monday, Jan. 21. McGee scored 18 and Slagle scored 14. Each grabbed more than 10 rebounds.

“Our bench played very well and held us together during foul trouble and fatigue,” Hilliard said. “Canaan Webb, Eli Riddell and Eli Hendrix came off the bench and played well in both games. Our other starters, Brayden Hendrickson and Hunter Clouse, are excellent defenders and make things tough on the other teams. Grant Hensley is our best shooter and a good defender. He has made a lot of shots late in close games this year, including both tournament games.”

The next game for the Jr. Blue Devils will be Thursday, Jan. 24, against T.A. Dugger in the area championship at Sevier.

Win or lose that game, the Jr. Blue Devils will advance to the sectional tournament, which will be played at Hardin Valley. The next game will take place on either Saturday, Jan. 26, or Monday, Jan. 28.