By Trey Williams
The Unicoi County boys basketball team didn’t look half bad at Sullivan East on Friday.
The Blue Devils went to the locker room at halftime tied, 35-35, with the Three Rivers Conference leader after 16 minutes of physical, contentious competition.
But Ethan Bradford, who beat Unicoi County with a last-second 3-pointer in the Dyer
Dome last year during the district tournament consolation, scored 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter and East sped off to an 82-64 victory.
Dylan Bartley scored 13 of his 23 points during a 32-10 run and his three free throws gave the Patriots (9-0, 17-5) a 67-45 lead with 6:22 remaining.
Unicoi County (5-4, 13-10) shakily handled East’s trapping full-court pressure in the second half.
“East took it to us in the third quarter and we didn’t respond well,” Blue Devils coach John Good said. “Turnovers led to easy baskets and they crashed the glass when they did miss. We fought the first half and in the fourth quarter.”
The Patriots also got 14 points from 6-foot-7 senior Austin Davis and 13 points from Mason Montgomery.
“You have to guard East at all five positions,” Good said.
The Blue Devils were playing without sophomore shooting guard Grant Hensley for the second straight game due to a concussion.
Junior point guard Bryson Peterson led Unicoi with 15 points. Sophomore post Lucas Slagle scored nine of his 13 points in the first half and junior lead guard Ty Johnson scored eight of his 11 in the first quarter.
“I thought Bryson and Ty attacked the basket versus East,” Good said. “We didn’t shoot it well and I wish we could have gotten it inside more. Turnovers again led to our demise.”
The Blue Devils certainly appeared to get Sullivan East’s best shot after the Patriots had left Erwin with a physical 56-44 victory nine days earlier. Bartley, always excited to be on a basketball court, appeared especially eager nine days after the bruising battle.
“We had really good team chemistry and distributed the ball really well,” Bartley said.
“And we played really tough defense. They’re a great team.”
First-year Sullivan East coach Dillon Faver wasn’t shocked to be tied with Unicoi early in the third quarter.
“Hats off to Coach Good and those guys over there,” Faver said. “They came out and they played great. They’ve got a good team. They’ve got good coaches. They’ve got great athletes. We were a team in the third quarter.”
Senior guard Robbie O’Dell made five 3-pointers for a team-high 15 points in a 50- 37 win at Cloudland on Tuesday. Eli Johnson scored 11 points and Mason Barcel added nine.
“Cloudland played zone and ran the flex,” Good said, “so it was a very slow game.”
O’Dell is leading the Blue Devils with 12.1 points per game and 43 steals. He’s made a team-high 70 treys (35.2 percent).
Slagle is averaging 10.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Peterson and Ty Johnson have 72 and 70 assists, respectively.
Hensley, who was expected back when the Blue Devils were scheduled to host Elizabethton on Feb. 2, is averaging 9.7 points per game. He’s shooting 37.7 percent from 3-point range (40-106).
Unicoi County is scheduled to host Johnson County on Friday.