Earlier, the Lady Rebels hit 10 of 10 free throws over the final 1:12 of the contest to subdue the pesky Lady Blue Devils 54-48.
After leading for most of the night, Michael McMeans’ Rebels (20-3, 8-0) found themselves trailing 53-50 with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter. A 13-2 run solved South’s dilemma and the Rebels were able to fend off the Blue Devils (12-11, 4-4) over the final three minutes.
“I told everyone that the second time through the conference schedule would be tough,” McMeans said. “The teams have gotten better and now we are getting everyone’s best shot.
“Our kids stepped up and made big shots down the stretch. They battled and found a way to win. That’s what you have to do this time of year.”
South seniors Ben Diamond and Cole Layne each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the crucial fourth quarter. Diamond finished with 23 points and Layne had 16.
“I thought tonight’s win was the result of the way we practice,” Diamond said. “It’s all about coming out and playing hard.”
Lucas Slagle had 15 points, 11 boards and two blocked shots for Unicoi County.
“Right now, we’re just not mature enough to finish,” said Blue Devils coach John Good. “Our kids fought their tails off and I couldn’t ask for more. But South just hit too many big shots.”
Caleb Adkins added 14 points and Phoenix Holt 10 for the Blue Devils.
South 54, Unicoi 48
The Lady Rebels (8-13, 2-5) led by 10 points with 5:07 left in the game only to see the Lady Blue Devils (12-10, 2-5) close to within two, 42-40, with two minutes still showing on the clock.
McKenzie Littleton and Allie Jordan hit all 10 free throws they attempted down the stretch and that was enough to secure the victory.
“Coach wanted the ball in my hands there at the end,” Littleton noted. “My job was to get the ball upcourt, get fouled and make the free throws.”
Littleton finished with a team-high 21 points.
“We really needed that win,” said Lady Rebels coach Terry Hutson. “It started to feel like it was slipping away, but our seniors stepped up and that’s what you hope they’ll do.”
Caroline Podvin had 17 points for Unicoi and Tenley Holt added 16.