ERWIN — Unicoi County went zone, and Elizabethton couldn’t match up.
The Lady Blue Devils dominated the Cyclones with a matchup zone, and Emily Edwards went 5 of 6 from 3-point land in a 50-35 victory in the District 1-AA basketball championship Monday night at Devils Den.
Unicoi improved to 24-6 on the season and won its first district title since 2008.
“This is big for our program,” said Blue Devils’ head coach Joshua Epperson. “We want the girls to expect to do this every year.”
The Blue Devils will play host to South Greene in the Region 1-AA quarterfinals Friday at 7.
Elizabethton fell to 20-10 and will play host to Greeneville.
In the third-place game, Sullivan East came from behind to beat Happy Valley 55-53. East will travel to play Chuckey-Doak while the Warriors will visit Grainger.
The Cyclones had won the last two meetings against Unicoi, and trailed only 11-9 at the end of the first quarter. But Unicoi outscored them 17-5 in the second quarter as the matchup zone took its toll.
“We’ve been working on it all season,” said Epperson. “We saved it for the right time. We decided it was the time we needed to show it. I don’t think they were ready for it.”
Elizabethton head coach Mike Wilson agreed that Unicoi’s defensive approach hurt his team.
“The matchup zone bothered us a little bit,” said Wilson. “We knew we would see it, and I think we had a plan to attack it.
“It is tough to simulate it in practice. But I was disappointed with the way we attacked it.”
The Cyclones have been averaging over 60 points per game since Dec. 27, but were held 25 points shy — and seven of their 35 came in the final minute when Unicoi emptied its bench.
Edwards, the tournament’s most valuable player, hit all five of her treys in the first half and had 18 of her 22 points.
“The box score will show Emily with 22 points, but this is a team thing,” said Epperson.
Rilie King added nine points and five rebounds for Unicoi.
The Cyclones had a small window of time to close the gap in the third quarter, and started with an 8-4 advantage. But Unicoi closed the quarter with a 6-0 run and the 38-22 lead was too much for Elizabethton to overcome.
Edwards said the victory was born in the mind.
“It was mental toughness,” said Edwards. “We wanted it more tonight.
“This means everything. It’s a stepping stone to where we want to go and what we want to do. It’s a big confidence boost.”
Wilson gave credit to Edwards for being difficult to defend.
“I think she played really well,” said Wilson. “When we did get on her, she beat us off the dribble. She went to the goal as hard as I’ve ever seen her go.”
Morgan Depew, who had scored 68 points in the previous two games against Unicoi, finished with 13. Reazyn DeMoss and Lauren McCurry each totaled 10 points.
Sullivan East 55
Happy Valley 53
Trailing throughout the game and still down by 10 points with 6:01 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots finally came to life.
Angel Trent and Savanna Summers combined for 14 straight points, leading East to a 14-2 run that gave it a 52-50 lead with 1:31 remaining.
Down the stretch, Trent and Jamison Shaffer combined for three free throws to hold off the Warriors.
Trent led the way with 21 points while Summers finished with 14 for the Patriots, who improved to 17-14 and have won 13 of their last 19 games.
Happy Valley (11-19) got 15 points from Carrie Gouge and 10 from freshman Jenna Eaton.