That champion coach was Mike Poe as Volunteer visited Unicoi County, but the Blue Devils were a 48-38 winner.
Poe returned to the prep scene after 14 seasons at Tennessee Wesleyan with a combined nine conference championships between regular season and tournament to go along with numerous championships at Meigs County, David Crockett and Science Hill.
“We have to learn to play the game with passion,” Poe said. “We played with passion in the fourth quarter. We have one player with varsity experience and it showed in the first half. We had open shots, but were scared to death. A lot of those things will cure themself with playing time. We’re going to use these games to get people some experience.”
Unicoi County built a 37-20 lead after three quarters, but Volunteer clawed back. The gap narrowed until Volunteer’s Leyton Patrick scored with 2:31 left in regulation cut the Blue Devil lead to 42-36. However, the six-point margin would be the closest the game would be in the final 150 seconds.
It was a balanced attack in the final quarter for the road squad. Eli Churchwell had five of his team-best 13 points. Chance Johnson added five in the last four minutes to finish with eight, which all came in the second half. Patrick scored all four of his points in the final four minutes.
The Blue Devils’ Brock Thompson adjusted back to basketball quickly. The sophomore, who was the starting quarterback a week earlier, scored nine first-quarter points as Unicoi County led 13-9 after eight minutes. He finished with a game-best 19 points, including a set of three 3-pointers.
Another Blue Devil football player was Austin O’Dell, who poured in 10 points. Ty Thelen also moved from the gridiron to the court and scored the final four points for Unicoi County.
“We did a really good job in the first three quarters, but the fourth quarter was ugly,” Unicoi County head coach Michael Smith said. “We didn’t take care of the ball or didn’t rebound well — and that let Volunteer back in.”
Gavin Casey and Brett Lingerfelt scored five each for the winning side.
Unicoi County 50, Volunteer 49 (Girls)
Kaylee Hendrickson led the winning side with 19 points as the girls’ game was a back and forth affair. Caroline Podvin finished with 12 points as seven were in the final eight minutes. Allee Griffith and Ashton Vance finished with eight and seven points, respectively.
Volunteer was paced by Kennedy Knittel. She also reached the 19-point mark thanks to three makes behind the arc. Knittel was balanced with nine first-half points then the final 10 in the second.
Bryna Minton added 14 more for Volunteer as her only field goals were the three makes from long range. She was 5 of 7 at the line as Volunteer went 15 for 26 at the free-throw line. In comparison, the Lady Blue Devils were 16-for-23.