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UCHS Basketball Preview – Five seniors will lead Lady Devils

Years of youth have turned into experience for the Unicoi County High School Lady Devil basketball program.
The team will rely on the leadership of five seniors during the 2014-2015 season, according to head coach Kerri King.
“I think any time you have more mature players, they can handle adversity better,” King said. “They can adjust easier, they’re used to each other and the process. The past two years, we’ve only had one senior each year, so I’m tickled to death to have this experience back.”
An early exit from the District 1-AA tournament has been a significant motivational tool for the Lady Devils approaching this season, King said.
“We talked about last year,” she said. “Our tournament wasn’t as successful as we wanted it to be. We are using that as a guide or a goal to help us focus on what we want to do this season.”
Another new trait to start this year is a completely healthy starting five.
“It’s the first year we’ve had (Chelsey) Harness fully healthy,” King said, “and she’s excited about that. This summer Harness and Hannah (Rice) had shoulder injuries so having them back healthy is a plus.”
Rice, a junior point guard, will navigate the offense after a solid campaign last season, according to King.
“She’s really adjusted well,” she said. “Hannah has transitioned into a better player.”
Harness, Haley Webb, Emily Lynch and Morgan Lee Brown are the senior sharpshooters on the team this season. Fellow senior Destinie Hayes gives the team a presence in the paint.
“People know she gets a lot of rebounds,” King said. “They make it a point to box her out. She has the upper-body strength, but really has improved her defense away from the basket.”
Sophomore Neelee Griffith, who is currently sidelined by a leg injury, will be an important cog of the bench for the team, King said.
The team has a rotation of seven when Griffith comes back into the rotation; however, some underclassmen have a chance to make an impact at the varsity level, King said.
“Ashlie Padgett has done well for us lately,” she added. “Halie (Padgett) is Ashlie’s sister. She’s a freshman. Halie is young, but has a lot of offensive moves and that’s a bright spot for us.”
The Three Rivers Conference keeps its level of intrigue from the previous year, King said.
“Elizabethton returns almost everybody back,” she added. “They’re at a level. We knew Sullivan East looked strong and they proved that at the jamboree against Elizabethton. Happy Valley has a quick team and (Sullivan) South has a lot of its players back. Number two through and number five has a lot of parity and we look forward to seeing what we can do this year.”
The UCHS Lady Devils are coached by King, and assistants Jordan Simmons and Megan Davis.