Unicoi defeats Gate City and Volunteer dominates Central in Shootout | Sports


BRISTOL, Tenn. – The battle for the Blue Devils was as close as it could get until the last few minutes on Saturday.

Unicoi County came back from behind and took advantage of an 8-2 run in the 2:18 finals to claim a 53-47 victory over Gate City in the Tennessee vs Virginia Shootout Men’s Basketball Tournament in Viking Hall.

The victory was not easy for the Unicoi County Blue Devils.

The game saw 12 lead changes, including three in the fourth quarter, and nine draws, including five in the last stanza.

“We didn’t have our best day, but the kids found a way to win,” Unicoi County coach Jordan Simmons said. “In the fourth quarter, the guys had to step up. Grant Hensley, Eli Johnson, Lucas Slagle, Ty Johnson, everyone stepped up when needed.

“We beat a good quality team today so we’ll definitely take it.”

In the other game to start the day, Volunteer used a 10-0 streak in the second quarter to break free from Wise Central en route to a 64-44 victory.

BATTLE UNTIL THE END

It was a close game from the opening game, with neither team having gained more than a four-point advantage until the last minutes of the game.

Unicoi (7-6) was leading 45-42 late until a 3 point Eli McMurray of Gate City, who finished with a high 20 points, tied at 45 with 2:28 remaining in regular time.

A basket from Slagle 10 seconds later gave his team the advantage for good. And the bucket unleashed a streak of eight straight Unicoi points.

Slagle’s basket was Unicoi’s last placement. The Blue Devils’ remaining six points came through the free throw line, where Hensley had three shots, Slagle two and Eli Johnson one.

“We had the right guys on the line for sure,” Hensley said. “It’s just a testament to our kids, really being in so many close games this year, knowing who to give the ball to in this type of situation.”

While Unicoi made his free throws down the home stretch, Gate City (2-2) struggled to get off the line throughout the match.

Coach John-Reed Barnes’ team connected on just 9 of 18 shots from the line.

Barnes said Virginia started the season later than Tennessee’s in the game.

“One advantage they did have was the practice time,” Barnes said. “We haven’t had a chance yet to put our whole zone attack on and I knew it would be a challenge for us. But given the circumstances, I thought we had the ball in decent areas. They just made a few more games than us.

Johnson led Unicoi County with 17 points. Hensley finished with 15 and Slagle added 14.

THE FALCONS FLY ON THE WARRIORS The Falcons (8-3) held a 19-18 advantage with 4:56 left before halftime when a bucket of Bradin Minton triggered the 10-0 explosion of the team.

When that was done, Volunteer was leading 29-18 with 2:09 left in the second quarter.

“We didn’t play very well yesterday and wanted to come back here today and play the way we play and increase the intensity,” Volunteer assistant coach Zac Crawford said.

Crawford was interim head coach for the Falcons on Saturday because head coach Mike Poe was attending a family member’s wedding.

Joltin Harrison scored 13 points in a balanced attacking effort for Volunteer. Minton finished with 12 and Heath Miller added 11.

Central got 14 points from Ethan Collins.


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