From Staff Reports
Head coach Kerri King and her Unicoi County High School girls basketball team (2-7, 0-1) knew going into the season that the Three Rivers Conference would be more competitive than in recent years, with several teams expected to contend for the top spots in the league.
“There is a lot of parity in the conference,” head coach Kerri King told The Erwin Record. “That is a good thing, but it also means you have to be on your toes ready to play night in and night out. We didn’t open up the conference season ready to play.”
The Lady Devils saw this first hand when they traveled to Sullivan South on Friday, Dec. 2, to face the Lady Rebels in their first conference game of the year. UCHS got off to a pretty solid start in the contest, taking a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. South began to chip away at the lead in the second quarter, but the Lady Devils managed to take a 6-point lead, 26-20, into the break, thanks to Kenedy King’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half.
Just as it has many games throughout the season, foul trouble again plagued the Lady Devils against Sullivan South. In addition to having several players forced to the sidelines due to personal foul trouble, the many fouls called on the ladies sent the Lady Rebels to the free throw line 38 times during the game – 25 of those coming in the second half. South hit 29-38 free throw attempts in the game. In comparison, the Lady Devils shot 6-17 from the line.
“You can’t spot a team 23 points from the free throw line and expect to win,” King said. “That’s not necessarily an officiating thing, that’s a lack of effort on defense that leads to picking up fouls.”
The Lady Rebels outscored the Lady Devils by 10 in the third quarter to take a 37-33 lead into the final frame of play. South’s lead reached 7 points, 46-39, with approximately 5 minutes to play in the game; however, the Lady Devils would not go quietly, cutting the lead to 2 points, 49-47 with around 2 minutes to play.
South’s free throw opportunities proved to be too much for UCHS as the Lady Rebels held on for a 59-49 win.
Kenedy King led the Lady Devils in scoring with 13 points (3 3-pointers) and had 4 rebounds.
Ashley Edwards scored 9 (2 3-pointers) with 3 rebounds. Neelee Griffith, Kaylee Hendrickson (2 3-pointers) and Halie Padgett scored 6 points each. Griffith had 9 rebounds and Padgett had 5. Hendrickson had 4 assists. Chloe Powers had 4 points to go along with 4 assists. Kaitlin Bailey and Rachel Lynch scored 2 points each.
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Despite a solid defensive effort, the Lady Devils fell to Cloudland, 41-36, on Monday, Dec. 5, in Erwin.
Griffith scored 17, Powers scored 7 (1 3-pointer), Hendrickson scored 6 and Padgett and King scored 3 points each.
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A run late in the second quarter put the Science Hill Lady Hilltoppers in control of the game for good when UCHS traveled to Johnson City on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
“When we were fresh we went toe-to-toe with them,” King said, “but they are so deep and big and quick. Our rotation of people is a lot slimmer than theirs, so once we got tired we couldn’t keep mental focus. The last 52 seconds before the half we went from down 4 points to down 10 and we never recovered.”
The Lady Devils couldn’t mount a comeback in the second half as Science Hill won the game, 55-34.
Padgett led the ladies in scoring with 8 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Griffith scored 7 points (1 3-pointer), had 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Powers scored 6 points and had 6 rebounds. Lynch scored 4 points. Hendrickson, Kaylia Street and Edwards each hit one 3-pointer.
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The Lady Devils will get a chance to avenge three previous losses in the coming days.
First, they will face Sullivan East – this time with conference standings on the line. The Lady Patriots will travel to Erwin to face UCHS on Friday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m. Sullivan East beat UCHS, 63-51, on Nov. 23.
The Lady Devils will get another chance at the Hampton Lady Bulldogs on Saturday, Dec. 10, in Erwin at 6:30 p.m. Hampton defeated UCHS, 62-56, on Nov. 25.
Lastly, Science Hill is scheduled to come to Erwin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, with tipoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m.