Hampton ladies best Blue Devils

By Allen LaMountain

   KINGSPORT -- The only difference between Tuesday's District 1-AA tournament action and a boxing match is that in boxing there is a three knockdown rule.
   Hampton and Unicoi County went at it with the gloves off in its semi-final contest, with the Lady Bulldogs getting the worst of it physically but getting the better of it on the scoreboard as Hampton beat the Lady Blue Devils 44-40 at Sullivan North.
   Cindy Hyatt, Kari Stout and Alison Pierce were all nicked in the contest, but Pierce and Stout were able to return to action, while the extent of Hyatt's injury isn't yet known.
   "Kari hurt her lower back, Alison got hit above the right eye and Cindy hurt her ankle," said Lady 'Dogs head coach Leslie Campbell. "We were able to keep our composure and that was a big factor. And we took care of the basketball."
   The duel to watch in this contest was the shootout between Stout and Lady Devil Kim Anders as they matched each other nearly shot for shot all game long.
   Stout finished with a game-high 24 for Hampton, while Anders led the Blue Devils in scoring with 21.
   Hampton led 24-20 at the break and proceeded to score the first seven points of the third period to take a 31-20 lead before a deuce by Anders ended the drought for Unicoi.
   Despite the Bulldog run, Unicoi rallied to close the gap to 37-30 at the end of the third period as both Anders and Stout began to heat up.
   Stout scored the first 12 points of the third period for Hampton as she showed her ability to take over a ball game. Stout scored on an impressive variety of slashing moves to the hoop and baseline drives.
   Early in the fourth period however, Stout went down after a loose ball and was sandwiched hard to the court, knocking the wind out of her and straining her lower back.
   To their credit the Lady Bulldogs managed to keep the lead during the three-plus minutes Stout was out of action.
   "I rotated Jodi (Stout) in and out, and the rest of them really stepped up," commented Campbell of her team's resilience in maintaining the lead they had fought so hard to achieve. "I loved what I saw out there. We really came together and played smart."
   Meghan Headley put in a trey to cut the Hampton lead to 37-33, but Stout returned to hit one of two from the charity stripe before Anders answered with a deuce.
   A Hampton turnover didn't hurt as Rachel Oler was wide on a three-point attempt and Pierce corralled the loose ball on the baseline.
   "We all know that we have to work hard inside," said Pierce, who finished with five boards. "We aren't the tallest players out there and we know that, so we work extra hard on boxing out. We find a player and put a body on them."
   Kelly Shoun's two free throws gave Hampton a 41-35 advantage with 1:06 remaining, but Anders hit a runner and, on Unicoi County's ensuing possession, hit a trey to make it a 42-40 contest with 23.5 seconds left.
   Kari and Jodi Stout each hit one free throw down the stretch while some frantic defense kept the Lady Devils from getting a good look at the basket on its final two possessions.
   "We rushed at the end, and weren't as patient as we should have been," said Lady Blue Devils head coach Glenn Fisher. "We did a great job coming back, but we got anxious at the end and got ourselves in foul trouble late."