BLUFF CITY — It was everything it was expected to be in terms of intensity, and Sullivan East had the final say.
The Patriots overcame a 15-point third-quarter deficit and earned a very hard fought 69-65 win over Unicoi County in a Three Rivers Conference contest Friday night at East’s gym.
East improved to 2-0 in league play and 10-1 overall while the Blue Devils slipped to 1-1, 7-3.
“Unicoi is a great opponent and a great rival,” said East head coach John Dyer. “The games are like that all the time. What a fantastic game.”
In the girls game, the Lady Blue Devils rolled to an easy 85-59 victory behind a 24-point effort from Emily Edwards.
Unicoi was pounding East in the second half, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 44-29 advantage with 2:27 left in the third quarter. However, during that stretch the Blue Devils lost point guard Ethan Rice to an ankle injury and East made things worse for Unicoi by turning up the heat and beginning to knock down shots.
“Losing No. 24 (Rice) hurt them,” said Dyer. “They had all the momentum.”
However, Blue Devils head coach John English wasn’t settling for the excuse.
“I’m not putting anything on Ethan’s injury,” said English. “He’s a key part of our ballhandling, but East made plays.”
Chance Davis hit a 3-pointer to start East’s rally, and by the end of the third quarter it was an eight-point game at 48-40.
One of the key moments of the game came in the fourth quarter when Garrett Carter made his first shot of the game. His trey cut Unicoi’s lead to 55-53 with four minutes left in the game.
“Garrett is a good shooter,” said Dyer. “We don’t go by the thing that says if you miss a couple, do something else. You either shoot or you don’t. We clap if it goes in, and we clap if it doesn’t go in if it’s a good shot.”
Carter would come up big again, hitting another three ball with 1:25 remaining give East a 63-61 lead.
Unicoi never recovered, and part of the reason was nine fourth-quarter turnovers.
“It was a three-quarter game for us,” said English. “We took care of the ball for three quarters, and we rebounded well for three quarters.
“In this league, if you win this game it’s big. We’ve got to regroup. A win wouldn’t have sealed the deal and losing doesn’t seal the deal. We’ve got a lot of basketball left.”
Trevor Shelton had a very strong game for the Blue Devils, totaling 20 points and eight rebounds. Austin Hensley added 14 points and eight rebounds. Connor Simpson chipped in with seven points and seven rebounds off the bench.
East was led in scoring by Jonathan King, who finished with 18 points. Davis added 15 points while David Casaday totaled 12.
Unicoi County (girls) 85
Sullivan East 59
The Lady Blue Devils scored 71 points in the first three quarters, and coasted to the finish. They hit 12 3-pointers in the contest.
Edwards led the way with her 24 points and four treys while Chelsey Gardner added 18 points. Mikayla Bennett hit four treys and finished with 14 points. Emmie Thompson added 10 points.
East got 16 points apiece from Savanna Summers and Angel Trent.