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South boys, girls pull out dramatic wins over Unicoi

By PAT KENNEY, Sports Correspondent • Jan 25, 2020 at 2:37 AM

KINGSPORT — Three Rivers Conference leader Sullivan South rallied three times in the fourth quarter to earn a thrilling 69-65 boys basketball win over visiting Unicoi County on Friday.

That drama from the nightcap joined the earlier spectacle from the girls’ game that saw the Lady Rebels hit 10 of 10 free throws over the final 1:12 of the contest to subdue the pesky Lady Blue Devils 54-48.

BATTLE BY THE BOYS

After leading for most of the night, Michael McMeans’ Rebels (20-3, 8-0) found themselves trailing by three points, 53-50, with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter.

A 13-2 run solved South’s dilemma and the Rebels were able to fend off the Blue Devils (12-11, 3-3) over the final three minutes.

“I told everyone that the second time through the conference schedule would be tough,” McMeans said. “The teams have gotten better and now we are getting everyone’s best shot.

“Our kids stepped up and made big shots down the stretch,” the coach added. “They battled and found a way to win. That’s what you have to do this time of year.”

Ben Diamond and Cole Layne, both seniors, each hit a pair of 3-pointers for the Rebels during the crucial fourth quarter. Diamond finished with a team-high 23 points and Layne had 16.

“I thought tonight’s win was the result of the way we practice,” Diamond said. “It’s all about coming out and playing hard.”

Lucas Slagle totaled 15 points, 11 boards and two blocked shots to set the overall pace for Unicoi County.

“Right now, we’re just not mature enough to finish,” said Blue Devils coach John Good. “Our kids fought their tails off and I couldn’t ask for more. But South just hit too many big shots.”

Caleb Adkins contributed 14 points and Phoenix Holt added 10 for the Blue Devils.

LADY REBELS HOLD ON

The Lady Rebels (8-13, 2-5) led by 10 points with 5:07 remaining in the game only to see the Lady Blue Devils (12-10, 2-5) close to within two, 42-40, with two minutes still showing on the clock.

But Terry Hutson’s South players kept their cool and did what they had to do.

McKenzie Littleton and Allie Jordan then stepped up and hit all 10 free throws they attempted down the stretch, which proved to be enough to secure the victory.

“Coach wanted the ball in my hands there at the end,” Littleton noted. “My job was to get the ball upcourt, get fouled and make the free throws.”

Littleton finished with a team-high 21 points.

“We really needed that win,” Hutson said. “It started to feel like it was slipping away, but our seniors stepped up and that’s what you hope they’ll do.”

Caroline Podvin had 17 points for Unicoi County and Tenley Holt came through with 16.

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