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Shooting woes doom Blue Devil basketball team

Brock Thompson drives by a defender during the Blue Devils’ loss to Sullivan Central. (Contributed photo by Teresa Parkey)

From Staff Reports

The first win of the new year still eludes the Unicoi County High School boys basketball team.

Despite a furious comeback in the Devils’ Den on Monday, Jan. 14, the Blue Devils (4-15, 1-5) fell to the Hampton Bulldogs, 69-64, in non-conference play.

“I felt like we struggled offensively in the first half, but played pretty good defense,” head coach Michael Smith told The Erwin Record.

Smith’s team trailed 27-23 at the half. The Blue Devils came out of the lockerroom playing pretty solid basketball and took a 30-29  lead over the 14-7 Bulldogs in the third quarter.

“Then, our effort didn’t stay where we needed it and we gave up too many easy baskets,” Smith said. “We also didn’t shoot well and got outscored 17-2.”

The run gave Hampton a 46-32 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“The start of the fourth quarter was like the end of the third and we got down more,” Smith said. “But, then we started pressing and fouling to extend the game as long as we could. We also made shots during the fourth quarter – including six of our 10 three-pointers.”

The Blue Devils cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four points, but ran out of time in the end. UCHS outscored Hampton 32-23 in the fourth quarter, but lost the game, 69-64.

“I am pleased with two-and-a-half quarters of this game, but we didn’t have the same focus, intensity and effort the rest of the game,” Smith said. “Against the teams on our schedule, we have to show up for all 32 minutes. We can’t have any letdowns.”

Brock Thompson led the Blue Devils in scoring on Monday with 28 points. Austin O’Dell scored 11 and Brett Lingerfelt scored 9.

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Poor shooting nights doomed the Blue Devils in two Three Rivers Conference games last week. Playing at home against Elizabethton (12-3) on Tuesday, Jan. 8, Smith’s team shot only 20.4 percent from the field. Playing at home against Sullivan Central (7-12) on Friday, Jan. 11, the Blue Devils didn’t do much better – shooting only 32.7 percent.

“We have struggled scoring in the last few games,” Smith said. “We are getting good shots and making good moves, but we just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket.”

Elizabethton took a double-digit lead, 25-14, at halftime and built on that for a 52-31 victory last week.

“I felt like we played good defensively all night,” Smith said of the game against the Cyclones. “We did a great job of executing the defensive game plan all night long. They just made some tough shots that we were willing to give up.  We really struggled shooting all night long.”

In addition to shooting only 20 percent from the field, the Blue Devils only shot 58 percent from the free throw line against Elizabethton.

Thompson scored 9 points (1 three-pointer) and had 4 rebounds in the loss. Gavin Casey scored 6 and had 5 rebounds. Lingerfelt scored 6 (1 three-pointer). O’Dell scored 5 and had 6 rebounds. Danny Lowery scored 3 and had 8 rebounds. Robbie O’Dell and L.J. Mitchel each scored 1.

Smith’s team shot a little better against Central on Jan. 11, but still fell to the Cougars, 51-41.

“I thought we played OK defensively for three quarters of this game,” Smith said. “We just struggled to make shots when we needed to. We didn’t execute set plays and couldn’t get a shot to fall.”

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The Blue Devils traveled to Cloudland for a non-conference game after The Erwin Record’s press deadline on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

They are scheduled to host Happy Valley in conference play on Friday, Jan. 18, and travel to Sullivan South on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Varsity games are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.