ERWIN — When Unicoi County’s defense shuts the door and its offense keeps the foot to the pedal, opponents have little hope.
The Blue Devils blitzed Elizabethton late in the second quarter and early in the third, and ran away for a 69-46 win in the Three Rivers Conference basketball opener for both teams Tuesday night at the Devils’ Den.
Unicoi improved to 7-2 overall while the Cyclones slipped to 1-1.
“That was the best effort we’ve had this year, coming off the worst effort,” said Unicoi head coach John English, whose team was pounded Saturday by Tennessee High. “One thing we talked about was playing a solid 32 minutes.”
Austin Hensley was at the forefront of the superb effort. He got in the neighborhood of a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
“We just knew we had to start the conference with a big win,” said Hensley. “We came out, played hard, and got it done.”
It was an especially impressive effort because Hensley missed the last two games with an ankle injury.
But Hensley wasn’t the only Unicoi player enjoying a big night. Trevor Shelton notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Davey Edwards swished home four trey balls for his 12 points. Also, Lucas Hensley and Ethan Rice, both sophomores, totaled 10 points apiece.
Elizabethton got off to a good start, battling out to a 16-14 lead after one quarter. But things started to go wrong late in the first half, and didn’t get any better.
“I think the last four minutes of the second quarter and the first four minutes of the third quarter was the key,” said English. “I don’t think we had any turnovers, we got good looks, and we were able to extend our lead.”
Unicoi held the Cyclones to just 14 points in the second and third quarters combined.
“We did a good job of covering ground,” said English. “They pose matchup problems, and we were going from man to zone. We finally settled into a 2-3 zone, and did a good job of not giving the shooters looks. We also boarded well out of it, which can be hard to do.”
Rebounding was certainly one of the stories of the game.
“Coach English told us whoever won the rebound battle would win the game, and he was right,” said Hensley.
Elizabethton was led in scoring by Aaron Miller, who totaled 11 points.