Blue Devils corral Longhorns

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   ERWIN--Unicoi County head coach John English said he didn't think his Blue Devils could've held out much longer.
   "That number 15, (Judd) Shoun, I think he's the best one-on-one player in our conference," stated English, just after his Blue Devils had held off Shoun and the Longhorns of Mountain City Friday night, winning a very competitive conference encounter, 49-41 in Erwin.
   Coach English continued: "I'm not so sure we could have held them off another two minutes.
   "We kept missing critical free-throws, but fortunately for us, we worked hard under the basket and kept coming out with the rebounds, even after the misses."
   "We played hard at times," a dejected Austin Atwood, head coach of the Longhorns, stated. "We just have to play with more intensity when it counts the most: at the end.
   Shoun's play was indeed, brilliant, as he more than quadrupled any other Johnson County player in the scorer's column.
   "We have to find some other weapons," added Atwood. "We play hard but we don't play hard the whole game through. We were missing too many open shots to beat a team like Unicoi."
   Frank Icenhour, Michael Lipford and Jesse Jenkins each scored five points for Johnson County. Alex and Justin Genaille scored three and two points, respectively, to round out the scoring for the Longhorns.
   But no one scored for either team through the first four minutes of play, and Unicoi held a slim 9-7 lead after one. More missed opportunities, for both teams, throughout the second quarter left Unicoi still leading at 15-12.
   Unicoi increased their lead to ten before Shoun answered rising freshman, Ike Weaver's two with a buzzer-beating three to pull Johnson County within seven at 33-26.
   Unicoi's Jonathan Grindstaff began the fourth period scoring with two free-throws before Colton White was whistled for fouling Shoun at the 6:50 mark, a call that the Unicoi bench disagreed with a bit too vehemently, resulting in a technical foul.
   Shoun hit three of the four free-throws, and on Johnson County's following possession, Icenhour hit a deuce to pull the Longhorns within four at 35-31.
   Weaver responded for Unicoi with a jumper from the foul line, and after each team hit one of two free tosses, Shoun made a steal and hit a lay-up, to again make it a three point game at 38-35.
   Ryan Corn, who led Unicoi with 16 points, and Jenkins traded three pointers before Shoun would get another steal, was fouled; but this time Shoun missed both free throws. Corn answered with another three and the Blue Devils held on to win, in spite of the calamity at the charity stripe in the last minute.
   Unicoi missed seven of ten free throws in the final 1:30 before Weaver went two for two at the 12 second mark.
   Lady Blue Devils 38
   Lady Longhorns 26
   Unicoi freshman Ike Weaver is off to a good start for the Blue Devils this season. It seems that the Weaver family is blessed with basketball skills, as Ike's sister, Elizabeth, is a mainstay for the Lady Blue Devils.
   Elizabeth scored 12 points, blocked three shots, had three steals and seven rebounds to lead Unicoi over the visiting Johnson County Lady Longhorns.
   "It was a team effort," stated Weaver. "The only way we can be successful is to play team ball. Everybody has to do her part, play her role."
   Teammate Amber Kerns scored only two baskets for the Lady Devils, but both were long range bombs in the last 1:07, increasing a small 16-11 lead to 22-16 at the half. 
   "Those threes gave us momentum heading into the second half," Weaver said. "Coach told us to keep being aggressive, to keep taking the ball inside." 
   Johnson County could never really gather offensive momentum. The Blue Devil defense trapped the ball and blocked passing lanes. That forced the Longhorns to do too much dribbling, which ultimately led to three, five second violations against the Horns. 
   April McCloud led the Lady Horns in scoring with 10 points, followed closely by Elena Owens with nine. Billie Hurd scored three while Ashley Howard and Becky Stout added two each.
   Hali Sparks tallied eight for the Lady Devils and Meghan Headley matched Kerns with six. Amber Stevens scored four points, plus played a good defensive game, and Kellye Lingerfelt added two points.
   Laci Hensley is getting more playing time since returning to the team earlier in January after recovering from surgery. Hensley will provide critical depth for Unicoi County down the stretch of conference play, and especially during tournament action.
   Johnson County played well, and outscored Unicoi County 10-5 in the third quarter. They trailed by only six heading into the fourth, 27-21. 
   Ultimately the Lady Blue Devils were bigger and stronger, and controlled the boards, while continually frustrating the Lady Longhorns offense.  
   Except for the slight gain made by the Longhorns in the third quarter, the Lady Devils doubled the Lady Horns in the first quarter, 14-7. Thanks to the Kerns treys, doubled them again in the second 8-4. In the fourth Unicoi doubled the Longhorns plus one, 11-5. 
   So, who's the best basketball player in the Weaver family? 
   "Ike's pretty good, and I think he'll be great in a couple of years," diplomatically stated the proud sister.