Elton John knew a thing or two about Saturday, apparently, Dec. 7 is definitely alright for fighting on the Gridirons across the nation during Championship Saturday.
(FWIW – I’m still hoping for a trip up by Florida State/Ohio State but after the OK State loss, my hope is gone).
It’s back once again. Your bit of weekend reading as we take the look back at the UCHS athletics.
Whitley True is the lone senior on the team and is helping spearhead things this season. Erwin Record Staff Photo By Adam Campbell
While the boys’ have been dominant throughout the regular season so far by posting a 9-0 record, the UCHS Lady Devils are currently sitting 5-3 and a couple buckets shy from hitting a 7-1 record on the year. There’s something brewing in the girls’ locker room and this is just another reason why I will not everrrrrrrr do preseason picks when it comes to the Three Rivers Conference, especially with the ladies. This is why projections mean zip. Nada. All it does is fill space for preseason articles and news. When the girls dropped their one-point affair to Volunteer to start off the season, that was all you needed to know success will com
KEYS TO THE EARLY SUCCESS
Hayes rebounding performance -
It doesn’t matter who you are or when or where you do it – posting two 20-plus rebound performances eight games into a season in ridiculous. Junior Destinie Hayes has continued her rebounding prowess from last season and has not hit a single digit rebound total so far this season. The first half against Happy Valley, the Lady Warriors did a good job double-teaming to force the issue of taking Hayes out of the picture in the first half then in a flash – back-to-back buckets in the second half and a final 13 rebound totals.
Three-point efficiency - The Lady Devils hit 12 three-pointers against Sullivan North Friday night. And that’s an off-night it seems. Haley Webb, Whitley True, Hannah Rice and Emily Lynch all provide fire from the outside. Then off the bench you have Morgan Lee Brown, Haley Peterson and Cassie Foster that have shown the can drill it from downtown coming off the bench.
There’s a reason this squad currently holds a school record with 19 3′s.
Unselfishness - Looking across the starting five, you don’t see a “ball hog”. Going into this season, head coach Kerri King made it known that this is the most collective unit she’s coached in her career and it’s shown with practically all the starting five averaging near five assists per contest. The leading factors come from guard play, led by Rice (who has cleared 20 points in all but two games this season).
Near full health - With Jr. Chelsey Harness, one of the three starters back from last year, currently getting back into the team’s rotation – it leaves a bench that is healthy heading into the midseason stretch. Once Harness gets into the 100% mark and with the rest of the team
Developing rotation - Cassie Foster, Ashlie Padgett, Morgan Lee Brown, Neelee Griffith, Haley Peterson, Victoria Bailey, Ashley Edwards, Keelie Hall. For a team that had question marks entering this season … they’re slowing going away as with the development of the squad coming along.
The Big Blue’s sixth ‘men’ keeping games in check
Junior Zach Thelen is one of a handful of Blue Devils providing depth off the bench. Erwin Record Staff Photo By Adam Campbell
Ethan Rice, Connor Simpson, Nic Chambers, Austin Green and Lucas Hensley. That’s the makings of one of the more consist starting fives in northeast Tennessee but the bench is helping smooth things over during the nine-game win streak the Blue Devils are riding along this season. A team heavy with seniors really doesn’t need the title of a starting five – the Blue Devils practically have 10 starters and Sr. Keith Arrowood is approaching his reappearance to the hardwood.
Seniors – Sam Wilder, Thomas Tipton. Juniors – Zach Thelen and Austin Hendrickson (and Dalton Spears gave some pivotal minutes in the win Friday over Sullivan North). While the starting five is receiving notoriety ( and with good reason – two 6-4 post players, two stingy defense threats in Green and Hensley … and an all-conference guard in Rice) but the bench play has been a key move into the success for the team.
“We’re in an interesting situation with our seniors,” head coach John English said recently. “It can get frustrating for some of these younger guys but I’d feel comfortable starting our underclassmen.” The depth is proving this correctly. Keep an eye out of the Devils in the coming weeks.
Sullivan East at home – Tuesday, Dec. 10
Tuesday’s varsity contests will have a bit of intrigue in Erwin when UCHS hosts Sullivan East.
The Lady Patriots (8-2) are coming off a 67-43 victory on the road against Johnson County on Thursday, Dec. 5, and prior to that dropped a close affair to Sullivan South, 63-56.
Brandy Watkins leads the charge. Tori James is coming off a leg injury and is back in the rotation while the squad has seen some sparks out of junior Kara Stafford. A match up of two talents club in Erwin.
The boys side features a Sullivan East program (4-5) that is in a ‘down-year’ by some but still could just as easily be over .500. Head coach John Dyer has a youthful call club, with the likes of Gavin Grubb at a guard spot and are led by Anthony Vanhoy (who dropped 23 points in a 70-60 loss against Sullivan South) and have a big body in the post with Curt Lunceford – who can grab the boards and knock down the shots inside.
Hampton on the road – Friday, Dec. 17
While this is an interesting game for me just because I graduated from there, a good challenge awaits UCHS on the road Friday against Hampton. The trio of teams in Carter County (Hampton, Cloudland and Unaka) have shown each year they can hang tough with the higher classifications and it will be the same story at Buck-VanHuss gym. The Lady ‘Dogs post a potent lineup (including standout junior Alexis Bowers) along with Monica Olvera, Hannah Irick, Kaitlin Irick and a body in the post with Paige Montgomery. HHS also boasts a potent underclassmen group and it’ll be a good task for coach King’s crew before Christmas tournament time hits.
My honest opinion – I’m not sure a team will sweep the non-conference series. The Lady Bulldogs host a team that can make a trip back to the state tournament in 2014 and the Lady Devils are continuing to develop and shown they’re still a power in the Three Rivers Conference. Not very often two good teams meet and you see a team sweep the other.
The Blue Devils encounter a scrappy (and talented) Hampton ball club that is in the running for the conference crown in the WVC. Cody McClain is one the top PGs in the area and is compliment by Cheyenne Camillo and Coby Jones on the outside. Tristan Robinson is a big body for the ‘Dogs while Stanley Valentine is the all-around threat (rebounds, perimeter shots, defensively). The Blue Devils have the size advantage going in but expect a fight throughout both games this year.
On tap for Wednesday
A packed edition of The Erwin Record’s sports hits the stands on Wednesday, Dec. 11. The UCHS articles features a bevy of interviews from coach English, King and players: Hannah Rice, Whitley True, Destinie Hayes, Chelsey Harness for the girls and Austin Green, Zach Thelen, Ethan Rice and Sam Wilder for the boys). Along with that – a full recap of Unicoi Co. Middle School action with stats and interviews from head coaches Ken Hilliard and Alisha Mainer. AND UCHS freshmen action with head coach Drew Rice. ANDDDD a look at the upcoming FCA Senior Bowl game on Sunday Dec. 15 featuring Hunter Burnett and Cody Harris. It’s just another week of Erwin athletics, and once again a special thanks for all the readers for racking up the view totals for this little fun-installment. It’s a great away to add a bit of a personal feel to the profession.
Be sure to check out The Erwin Record Sports on Facebook. You can also check me out on Twitter at: @CurtisCarden_ER (almost at 500 followers… which is a ridiculous amount of support for a weekly sportswriter, y’all are awesome.) And of course, questions, comments and advice to reach Jennifer Lawrence can be sent to email@example.com
It’s time to get prepped for next week – my heart is still recouping from the OK State loss.
I’ve lost my trust in you Mike Gundy, although you can still dance.