Unicoi County kills Lady Bulldog hopes

By Ivan Sanders

STAR CORRESPONDENT

   MORRISTOWN -- The Lady 'Dogs came to stake their claim to a ticket for a sub-state berth, but the Devils tormented the life out of Hampton and in the end punched their name on the ticket instead.
   Unicoi County advanced to the championship game of the Region 1-AA tournament by defeating the Hampton Bulldogs 44-41 at Isenberg-Siler Gym on the campus of Morristown East High School.
   More importantly, the Lady Blue Devils secured a spot in the sub-state by virtue of the win. It was the first time since 1991 that Unicoi County has garnered such a berth.
   "It's been tough on our players," said Unicoi County Lady Devil coach Glenn Fisher after the contest. "They have enjoyed the challenge, though."
   Defense was the name of the game early as the Lady Devils put a clamp on Hampton's prolific scoring tandem of Kari Stout and Kelly Shoun. Stout was held to five first-half points while Shoun managed a meager two.
   On the other side of the ledger, the Lady Devils were paced in the half by Candance Shelton's eight points and Kim Anders' six points. The Devils entered the locker room with a 12-point lead, 27-15.
   "We played awful in the first half," said Lady Bulldog coach Leslie Campbell. "If we had played in the first half like we did in the second, it could have been a different story."
   A classic example of what Coach Campbell was talking about was the fact the Lady Bulldogs didn't score a point from the 6:39 mark of the second period until Amanda Finney finally broke the cold spell with 1:58 left in the half.
   In the second half, it appeared the 'Dogs had finally awoken from the dead. Hampton ran off 12 straight points. The 'Dogs finally chomped down on the Lady Blue Devils defensively, as Hampton allowed Unicoi County only six third-quarter points.
   Stout led Hampton in the third period, as the senior guard pumped in eight points, including two beautiful under-handed scoop shots to go along with a trey. Shoun also found a golden touch in the quarter, nailing two long-range bombs for six points.
   The 'Dogs now had re-entered the dogfight, trailing only four at the end of three quarters, 33-29.
   The Lady Devils extended the lead to six, 37-31, at the 6:00 mark of the fourth quarter on a deuce by Shelton, who had been held scoreless in the half. Stout once again brought her team back, as she scored five straight points to cut the lead to 37-36.
   Hampton took its first lead of the game, 39-38, with 3:26 in the contest on another trey by Stout. Unicoi County answered right back with a bucket from Kim Anders to retake the lead.
   Shelton added two more to extend the lead to three points with 2:10 left. Alison Pierce took the ball to the hole for a score to narrow the gap back to one, 42-41, with :40 remaining in the contest.
   The 'Dogs did have their opportunities in the final moments of the game, but could not capitalize.
   Hampton lost possession of the ball and Amber Bailey made them pay by collecting a foul and stepping to the line to bury both free throws, giving the Lady Blue Devils a 44-41 advantage with :13.5 to play.
   Hampton worked the ball hurriedly up the floor, but could not find the open shooter. Cindy Hyatt drew a foul with :02 left. Hyatt stepped to the line, where her one-plus-one attempt rimmed the front of the iron.
   The Lady Devils rebounded the loose ball and sheer pandemonium broke out as the Lady Devils of Unicoi County celebrated their victory and guaranteed berth in the sub-state at half-court.
   "They just wanted the game more than we did," stated frazzled Stout after the contest. "The difference in the game was their rebounding. We just didn't play well in that first half."
   Added Coach Campbell: "It's hard to beat a good team three times in a season, but much harder to beat that same team four times. They are an excellent team."