ERWIN — With five minutes left in the game, Unicoi County was knocking at the door.
From there to the finish, Sullivan East answered and slammed it shut.
The Patriots scored the last 14 points of the game for a 62-45 victory in a Three Rivers Conference basketball game Friday night at Devils Den.
It was an important step toward a conference title for the preseason favorite Patriots (2-0, 9-3) while the Blue Devils (0-1, 3-6) are searching for answers.
“This is one tough place to play,” said East head coach John Dyer. “They rarely lose in this gym. Even though they struggled early, they gave us a fight.”
In the girls' game, Unicoi held off an East rally for a 62-54 win.
East's boys built a 10-point halftime lead (31-21), and stretched it to 13 early in the third quarter. But Unicoi went on a 7-0 run, and still trailed by just six points at 44-38 entering the fourth quarter.
When Ethan Rice knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game with 5:08 remaining, it was 48-45 and East called timeout.
“I'm very proud of the effort,” said Unicoi head coach Michael Smith. “We got after it. With that effort, most nights you will have a good chance. And I thought we had a good chance tonight. But we do need to finish the game.”
On the next possession, Jonathan King got fouled and made one of two free throws. A minute later, David Casaday rained home a trey ball off a slick feed from Jordan James to restore East's advantage to 52-45.
Another minute later, James drove home a 3-stick to make it 55-45, and outcome was pretty much decided. James scored all 14 of his points in an impressive second-half effort.
“Jordan can do that,” said Dyer. “We've tried to get him to step up and take responsibility. He has, and he can do it.”
Casaday led the Patriots with 17 points and also added five rebounds and four assists. Fleenor totaled 10 points while King was a beast in the paint with eight points and 12 rebounds.
“Jon had a super game on the boards, and altering shots,” said Dyer of his 6-foot-9 senior.
For Unicoi, Rice had a nice game with 13 points and five rebounds. No other Unicoi player reached double figures. Lucas Hensley added six points, seven rebounds and three steals while Conner Simpson totaled seven points and eight rebounds.
“We've got to find a way to score,” said Smith. “And we've got to take care of the ball. We can't have 20 some turnovers.”
Unicoi County (girls) 62
Sullivan East 54
East opened the second half with 12 straight points to erase a seven-point deficit.
However, Haley Webb got a steal and a bucket to stop the run. Webb also hit a key 3-pointer with 4:56 left in the game to give Unicoi a 54-50 lead.
It was an important early season win for Unicoi (1-0, 4-3) while East slipped to 1-1, 8-2.
Emily Edwards led the Lady Blue Devils with 17 points. Tiffany Laughren added 14, Chelsey Harness totaled 13, Webb had 10, and Destiny Hayes grabbed 12 rebounds.
East got 18 points from Savanna Summers while Tori James totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Brandy Watkins added 12 points.