ERWIN — If there was any doubt Elizabethton would come back to the pack without injured point guard Morgan Depew, Unicoi County emphatically erased it.
The Lady Blue Devils posted a convincing 45-38 victory Friday night at the Devils Den, basically moving into a tie for first place in the Three Rivers Conference.
Unicoi (4-1, 13-7) actually got a leg up on the Lady Cyclones (5-1, 17-4) for the top seeding in the District 1-AA tournament because of a higher number in the preseason tiebreaker draw.
“I think our confidence has been building since Christmas,” said Lady Blue Devils’ head coach Kerri King. “We won three straight at Boone, and that was a character builder. We’ve been playing with more confidence since then.”
In the boys’ game, Elizabethton took control early and pretty much stayed in command for a 59-45 victory. It was the first-ever victory for the Cyclones’ seniors on Unicoi’s home court.
“We’re always a little nervous in this building,” said Eilzabethton’s Will Robinson, who broke loose for 23 points. “It’s a tough place to win, but we had tons of energy.”
Unicoi’s girls also had plenty of energy early as they raced out to an 8-2 lead. However, the pace slowed considerably for both teams, and it was 18-15 with three minutes left in the first half.
The Lady Blue Devils closed with a 9-4 run, and took a 27-19 edge into the locker room. Haley Webb’s 3-pointer ignited an 8-0 run to close the third quarter, and Elizabethton never recovered from the 37-24 deficit.
Unicoi County got 16 points and nine rebounds from Emily Edwards. Webb added nine points.
King said she was pleased with her team’s defense.
“Holding Elizabethton to around 40 points is hard because they have a good offensive team,” said King.
Whitney Roberts led Elizabethton with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Freshman Kelci Marosites added 10 points while twin sister Kayla Marosites added eight. Reazyn DeMoss had 10 rebounds.
The Lady Cyclones are certainly a team in transition.
“Point guard is a tough position to lose,” said Elizabethton head coach Len Dugger, whose team was playing its second game since losing Depew to a torn ACL. “We had to start the season all over at the wrong time of the season.
“But I think we’re a better team than what we showed tonight. The people who have carried us and played big in the past have got to step up in a big game like this.”
Unicoi County 45
The Cyclones started with a 13-3 run, and the Blue Devils never completely recovered. Unicoi got within four points at 14-10 and five points at 41-36 early in the fourth quarter.
However, a bucket by Alex Baughman and an intentional foul on Unicoi 14 seconds later pushed the Cyclones back ahead at 48-36 thanks to Robinson’s free throws and a three-point play by Zach Norwood. Baughman followed a minute later with a 3-pointer to basically put the game away.
Robinson said the win started with defense.
“We played real good defense in the first half,” said Robinson. “And we moved the ball offensively and got some easy shots.”
Robinson was 9 of 12 from the field, spreading his points throughout the game.
“Will is a tough one,” said Cyclones’ head coach Lucas Honeycutt. “He’s one of those kids you don’t notice. He get his points and does the little things right.”
Zeke Clark also made a big impact, totaling seven points and seven assists. Michael Wagner added nine rebounds while Norwood chipped in with eight points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Now the Cyclones (5-1, 15-5) can take their shot at first-place Sullivan East on Friday in Bluff City.
“We want to play our game,” said Honeycutt. “If we play like we have been, I think we will have a shot.”