ERWIN — It was supposed to be a battle, but Sullivan North never knew what hit it.
Unicoi County blew out to a 15-point lead less than five minutes into the game and never let up in a 72-39 destruction of the Raiders in the semifinals of the District 1-AA basketball tournament on Saturday night at Devils Den.
The Blue Devils (25-4) advanced to play Sullivan East in Tuesday’s championship at 8 p.m. The Patriots (22-7) earned their spot with a 57-26 thumping of Johnson County.
Unicoi rushed out to a 15-1 lead and extended it to 27-6 with 5:45 left in the second quarter. It was a pounding built on both ends of the court, but it started with defense.
“I thought our guys were just focused and locked-in,” said Unicoi head coach John English. “The commitment started on the defensive end. We got stops and transition baskets, and fed off that.
“I think we played free. We just played, and didn’t play with hesitation.”
By halftime it was 37-12. And if North had any ideas about a great comeback, Unicoi silenced them by started the second half with an 18-4 burst.
“All we talked about at halftime was that North would come out with an intensified effort,” said English. “The guys took the challenge of extending the lead.”
Trevor Shelton and Austin Hensley were nightmares for the Raiders. Shelton powered his way to 20 points and seven rebounds while Hensley finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Hensley also guarded North star Chase Arnold, holding him to 11 points before Arnold was taken out of the game by Raiders coach Mitch Cox after Arnold was tagged with a technical foul midway through the third quarter.
“Coach English gave me the honor of guarding Arnold,” said Hensley. “And Issac Harris did an amazing job on Will White. He had zero points. You can’t do any better than that.”
Shelton said his teammates made his standout night possible.
“My teammates put me in the right position, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Shelton.
Ten different Unicoi players scored as English was able to empty his bench for the entire fourth quarter.
North (15-12) will play Johnson County on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for third place.
Sullivan East 57
Johnson County 26
Less than 24 hours removed from its thrilling win over Elizabethton, the Longhorns didn’t have much left in the tank — and East didn’t offer a refill.
The Patriots led 37-8 at halftime, and it was no contest.
“We played well defensively in the first half,” said East head coach John Dyer. “We were all over them. We’ve got respect for Johnson County. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have played like we played.”
David Casaday led the Patriots with 14 points. Daniel Truett added 11 rebounds and six rebounds.
Johnson County (12-17) got nine points from Chase Kleine.