By Trey Williams
Unicoi County senior guard Tenley Holt is lighting it up in the twilight of her career.
Holt paced four double-digit scorers with 14 points when the Blue Devils secured a regional berth with a 55-38 District 1-AA win at Happy Valley on Wednesday and scored 14 of her 21 points in the first quarter of a 62-47 loss at top-seeded Sullivan East on Friday.
“She did (come out hot) and we were not expecting that,” Sullivan East point guard Riley Nelson said. “I think we adjusted in the second half, but boy, she gave us some trouble.”
Holt made five 3-pointers against East. The final one was a difficult, off-the-dribble step-back that cut East’s lead to 48-45 with 7:44 remaining. Fifth-seeded Unicoi handed the top-seeded Patriots their long Three Rivers Conference loss, and appeared intent on making it two straight for three-plus quarters on Friday. It seems to be a relatively tough matchup for the Patriots – for reasons that aren’t readily apparent to Unicoi County coach Kerri King.
“I don’t know how,” King said, “because they’re really long and we’re not.” Indeed, offensive rebounding saved the Patriots time and again. They got a number of second- and third-chance baskets and converted one possession after three offensive rebounds. “We didn’t box out,” King said. “I mean I don’t think we played bad, but we needed to control the boards … and we never did that. You can defend the rest of the time as good as you want, but if you give up more than one shot, all that’s in vain.”
East sophomore Jenna Hare paced four double-digit scorers with a game-high 23 points. Her buzzer-beating put-back gave the Patriots a 48-42 lead at the end of three quarters.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” King said. “They’re good.” Senior Caroline Podvin scored 13 points for Unicoi County. She made three 3-pointers. Beating the Blue Devils for the second time in three meetings was especially gratifying for the Patriots.
“We feel great,” Nelson said. “It’s a big win, especially after the last time we played ‘em. They beat us, so it was good to beat them and make it to the championship.”
Freshman Allie Lingerfelt scored eight points against East. Lingerfelt scored 12 points in the win at Happy Valley, as did Abigail Rush. Podvin and Leah Edney added 10 and six, respectively. Unicoi County lost 70-37 at Elizabethton in the district consolation game on Monday.
The Blue Devils will visit Grainger (29-3), the District 2-AA champion, on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Region 1-AA quarterfinals.
Podvin scored a game-high 10 points for the Blue Devils , who were held to five points in the third quarter. Point guard Lina Lyon led the Cyclones with 19 points.