The Unicoi County girls basketball team completed a sweep against Volunteer last week but failed to salvage a split with Tennessee High.
A win in Bristol would’ve been a significant step toward securing the No. 2 seed in the District 1-3A tournament. However, a 50-38 victory against Volunteer on Jan. 24 in the Devils Den was critical in terms of finishing in the top three.
The fourth- and fifth-place finishers will have to open the district tournament as the only teams not to have already clinched a regional berth.
“Like I told the girls,” Unicoi County coach Brandon Broyles said, “the only difference in the number two and three seeds is the color jerseys you wear (in the district opener).”
Post Olivia Bailey scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Blue Devils (3-3, 14-11) in the win against the Falcons (2-4, 8-16).
“Olivia’s had a great year,” Broyles said. “And she had a great (offseason). She’s averaging double figures in scoring and close to double figures in rebounds.”
Jocelyn Metcalf and Haley Rush added 11 and nine points, respectively. Allie Lingerfelt had 10 rebounds, six points, six assists and three steals.
“We played well again against Volunteer,” Broyles said. “We shot it well and we defended well and held Veda (Barton) to eight points. I mean, you know, when you do that to a player like her, you've played well defensively. We just executed and did what we needed to do Tuesday night and got a big win.”
The Blue Devils led much of the first two-plus quarters at Tennessee High (3-2, 12-12) before falling, 56-52. The Vikings needed overtime to prevail in Erwin on Jan. 10 and the rematch was tight throughout.
Tennessee High did stretch the lead to 53-46 with 1:22 left, but Unicoi County rallied to get within 53-52 with 27 seconds left. But Kendall Cross made 3 of 4 free throw attempts the rest of the way and the Devils failed to get a good shot in the possession between her trips to the foul line.
“I don’t know if it was a mental thing with Tennessee High, you know, where the kids wanted to win so bad and they kind of psyched their selves out,” Broyles said. “We had a chance to tie and missed the free throw a couple times.”
Allie Lingerfelt led Unicoi County with 14 points. Metcalf and Bailey added 12 apiece.
“It was a great opportunity for us to take a step as a program in the right direction, but we just didn’t get the job done,” Broyles said. “I think we’ll probably see them again in the district tournament. Coach (Amanda) Vance has done a great job. They were just more physical than us tonight. They played hard and got the job done. We had our chances. …
“We're still working hard. We came in Sunday and had a very good practice and had a good practice Monday. And Tuesday, we get the joy of playing the best team (Elizabethton) in East Tennessee. … And we get Hampton on Saturday. The competition is brutal, but I feel like it’s made us better.”
The Blue Devils will need to win their final game at Sullivan East on Feb. 7 and get some help for a chance at the No. 2 seed.
“You don’t want to scoreboard watch,” Broyles said, “and Friday night we had a chance to remove ourselves from having to do that. But we weren’t able to do it. So now we’ve gotta scoreboard watch. There’s a chance we could be in the play-in game and a chance we could finish second. The main thing for us is just take care of business the rest of the way out.”
Lingerfelt is leading the Devils with 11.3 points per game. Bailey (10.6 ppg) and Faith Bennett (10.4 ppg) are also averaging double figures.
Bailey is averaging a team-high 7.7 rebounds. Lingerfelt (3.7) leads in assists and steals (2.3).