'Dogs respond  in second half, top Unicoi Co.

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent

   ERWIN--Coach Bud Hazelwood's Hampton Bulldogs have made a habit of coming from behind in the second half to win conference games this season, and Friday night at Unicoi County was no exception.
   Is there a method to the third and fourth quarter success? "No," said the coach, whose team overcame a Unicoi five-point halftime lead (26-21). "If I knew the answer then maybe we could do a little better to start the games."
   Adam Miller is one of the keys to Hampton's success. Miller hit for eight points, including two threes, within a one minute-ten second span early in the fourth to help ignite the Bulldogs rally.
   Jordan Honeycutt had six of his 12 total points in the fourth quarter, including a beautiful hook just at the one-minute mark to help preserve the 60-51 victory for Hampton.
   "We never give up," said Honeycutt. "We just keep playing hard, and eventually the shots start to drop."
   Coach Hazelwood complimented his team's effort, especially for rebounding and playing better defense in the second half.
   "They had eight offensive rebounds against us in the first half alone," said Hazelwood. "We did so much better at boxing out in the second half; otherwise, we were doomed."
   "Adam always plays hard, and it's good to see Jordan start to play with more confidence come crunch time," Coach Hazelwood continued.
   Head coach John English of Unicoi County saw the difference in both teams after halftime.
   "We knew that they would warm up some in the second half, but we couldn't knock down any shots at all when it counted most," he said. "We rebounded better and played much better defensively in the first half. But ultimately it came down to them finding the range, especially in the fourth quarter.
   "We played hard enough to win the game, but sometimes good effort isn't all there is to victory."
   Coach English continued, "We have a great bunch of kids, and they always play hard. But I want to give most of the credit to Hampton. They hung in there throughout the first half, and when they finally started to hit, they just kept dropping them in. In fact, the Miller kid even banked in a three. It was going their way when it counted most."
   Lady Blue Devils 58
   Lady Bulldogs 47
   Unicoi County's Lady Blue Devils have established themselves as the best team in the tri-county area to date, having beaten Unaka's Lady Rangers in two classic, white-knuckle finishes; willing themselves to victory in the double-overtime classic at Elizabethton; and Friday night's win over Hampton made it a clean sweep over the Lady Bulldogs. 
   Elizabeth Weaver continues to be a presence under the boards and in the scoring column for Unicoi County, which was good news Friday night for Unicoi, but not so good for the visiting Lady Bulldogs.
   Hampton head coach, Leslie Campbell, watched her young team play decent, but only in spurts against the Blue Devils, and though acknowledging that Unicoi is a very talented team, she didn't accept her team's mediocre effort at critical points of the game.            
   "We're better than that," Coach Campbell said. "Not that they're not a very sound, well-coached team, which they are, but we need to bring better effort, more intensity -- and from the start!" 
   The Lady Bulldogs put on a very strong finish to an otherwise lackluster performance, closing to the final margin of 10 points.
   Jessi Price scored four and grabbed three rebounds in the third, and stole the ball twice, but even the talented sophomore expects more of herself, and from the entire team.
   "We didn't have the intensity from the beginning," Price said, "but we'll all come out next week prepared to do much better."  
   The third quarter saw Elizabeth Weaver grab four rebounds, score eight points and make life miserable for the Lady 'Dogs' offense.
   Joy Gardner and Jessica Tolley are the only seniors on the Lady Bulldog team, but Coach Campbell wasn't buying the "youth factor" question this time out.
   "We cannot continue blaming inexperience," she said. "We're way past the halfpoint in the season. We have to stop looking for excuses, and start to look to each other for more effort, and better execution."
   But on a more positive note, the coach concluded: "This is not the end of the road for us, and I believe that we have enough character on this team to step it up, beginning immediately."
   Heather Chambers concurred. "We can't let the other team, no matter how good they are, determine how we play," she said. "We let them set the tempo. Never again."
   Gardner simply promised: "We'll bounce back; we're much too good and too proud for this kind of effort. We still have a lot to play for."