By Richard Rourk
The Unicoi County High School girls basketball team entered the 2019 District 1-AA Tournament hosted by Happy Valley listed as the three seed on Thursday, Feb. 14. The Valentine’s Day opponent was the Johnson County Lady Longhorns, the seventh seed, who upset the Sullivan East Lady Patriots, the sixth seed, the previous night.
The Lady Devils jumped out to the early lead, 19-14, in the first quarter, but only managed 5 points in the second quarter as ball control issues plagued the Lady Devils in the second quarter. The Lady Longhorns went into halftime with a 27-24 lead.
The Lady Devils made necessary adjustments at halftime and followed the lead of sophomore guard Caroline Podvin, who hit a key three-pointer with 4:03 left in the third to give UCHS a 33-32 lead. The crowd came alive following the three and the Lady Devils capitalized to take a 41-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Devils carried the momentum into the fourth and played very aggressive on both sides of the ball. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Devils walked out of Bayless Gym with a 58-50 victory over Johnson County.
Podvin led the Lady Devils with 15 points, while junior guard Ashtan Vance finished the night with 10 points. Senior guard Kaylee Hendrickson and senior post Allee Griffith put up 9 points each for the Lady Devils. Senior guard Chloe Powers scored 8 points, and sophomore guard Tenley Holt ended the night with 7 points in the victory.
“I thought our push in transition in the third quarter changed the momentum and when we opened up the floor Chloe (Powers) got loose and the girls did a great job finding her,” Coach Kerri King told The Erwin Record.
Powers scored 6 of her 8 points in the fourth quarter via two threes.
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The Lady Devils hit a roadblock on Saturday, Feb. 16, when facing the number two seeded Lady Rebels of Sullivan South. The Lady Rebels cruised to a 71-54 victory and a spot in the District 1-AA Championship that was played on Monday, Feb. 18.
The Lady Rebels took advantage of the cold start from the Lady Devils and never looked back. Hendrickson picked up two fouls early in the first quarter. Powers was able to hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 17-9 with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
The Lady Rebels entered the second quarter with a 19-9 lead and that is when South rallied behind the hot hand of Alex Harris, who ended up sinking five three-pointers in the first half of play and scored 25 points on the night.
The Lady Rebels took the lead into halftime by a score of 39-22. Vance, Podvin, and Holt all sank three-pointers in the third quarter, but the Lady Rebels countered and held a 51-38 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Griffith hit a three with 47 seconds left to play, but it was too little, too late for the Lady Devils, who ended up losing 71-54.
Leading the way for the Lady Devils was Podvin who scored 19 points. Powers and Holt scored 9 points each in the loss. Griffith scored 7. Hendrickson and Vance each scored 5.
The loss placed the Lady Devils in the consolation game against the Sullivan Central Lady Cougars, the tournament’s top seed. The Lady Cougars were upset in the second round of the District 1-AA tournament by the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones. The Lady Cyclones are the only Three Rivers Conference team to beat Sullivan Central this year and they have done so twice in a two-week span. The Lady Cyclones played the Lady Rebels for the District 1-AA Championship on Monday, Feb. 18.
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The Lady Devils lost a heartbreaker against the Lady Cougars of Sullivan Central on Monday, Feb. 18. The Lady Devils led the whole game, but lost the lead with a little more than a minute to play. The Lady Cougars won 62-59 to take third place in the District 1-AA tournament.
The Lady Devils hit the floor running and jumped out to a 13-8 lead to end the first quarter. The Lady Devils held Peyton Sams to 2 points and post Abby Crawford to 1 point in the first quarter. The duo for Central remained quiet until the fourth quarter when Sams erupted for 11 points and Crawford put up 10 points. Crawford finished the night with 19 points and Sams put up 17 points on the night.
The Lady Devils held onto the lead, 32-19 going, into halftime. Griffith started the third quarter with a three-pointer from way downtown to fire up the crowd. The Lady Devils and Lady Cougars took turns sinking buckets to bring the score to 44-35 in favor of Unicoi County going into the fourth quarter.
Sams hit a key three-pointer in the fourth to tie the game up for the first time 56-56 with 1:05 left. The Lady Cougars took the lead when a foul by Powers sent Sams to the foul line with 34.4 seconds left. Sams sank both free throws to put the Lady Cougars up 58-56.
The Lady Devils regained the lead, 59-58, when Podvin hit a three-pointer from the corner with 23.5 left in the fourth. Sams then scored to put the Lady Cougars up 60-59.
After a missed shot by the Lady Devils, Sams was fouled with 3 seconds left and sank both foul shots to give the Lady Cougars a 62-59 lead. The Lady Devils were not able to score on a last-second shot, and the Lady Cougars held on to win 62-59.
Hendrickson and Holt led the Lady Devils with 16 points each. Griffith put up 11 points and Podvin scored 10 points in the loss. Vance scored 4 points and Powers finished the night with 2 points.
In the District 1-AA championship game, the fifth seed Elizabethton Lady Cyclones pulled the upset over the Sullivan South Lady Rebels by a score of 56-42.
The District 1-AA All-Tournament team included: Podvin from Unicoi County; Crawford and Sams from Sullivan Central; Mollie Leslie, Carissa Comsa and Harris from Sullivan South; Morgan Headrick, Kaylen Shell, and Tori Roberts from Elizabethton. The MVP was Kaitlyn Bailey from Elizabethton.
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The Region 1-AA tournament will begin on Friday, Feb. 22, with the following matchups: District 2-AA fourth seed Cumberland Gap will travel to District 1-AA champion Elizabethton; District 1-AA three seed Sullivan Central will travel to District 2-AA two seed Grainger County
District 1-AA fourth seed Unicoi County will travel to District 2-AA champion South Greene; and District 2-AA three seed Greeneville will travel to District 1-AA two seed Sullivan South.
All games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
A loss to South Greene will end the season for the Lady Devils. With a win, they will play on Monday, Feb. 25, at Happy Valley.