Longhorns squeak by with a close but solid win over rival Bulldogs
By Jonathan PleasantIn a game that eerily paralleled their recent match up against the Unaka Rangers, the Johnson County Longhorns were able to turn the tables and squeak by with a close but solid win over the visiting Hampton Bulldogs. Staying just barely ahead of one of their biggest rivals, the Longhorns truly pulled out a team effort with every player doing his part. In the end, even with a few costly mistakes along the way, Johnson County was able to secure just enough points to put the game away.
Yet, it was no easy win and from the very beginning the Bulldogs came out to play hard and do what they could to slow the Longhorns down. Dalton Timbs, one of the Longhorns highest scorers of the evening, helped keep his team on the boards at several points, especially in the first quarter where he landed nearly half of the Longhorns 18 points. Most of those were made by gaining the rebound, a skill where Timbs excels.
“We just go for it and play hard,” Timbs said after the game. I think its just about wanting it. That’s all rebounding is. If you’re going to get the loose balls and rebounds you’ve got to want it. You learn to read shots. I love to beat Hampton. Some of our players from here went there and some of them came here, which makes it better. Everything is just so much more competitive.”
Even with Timbs help, the Longhorns were still trailing 18-20 coming into the second quarter, but with some luck at the free throw line and a very strong defensive showing, Johnson County was able to take back the lead and give themselves a little breathing room before the half. Unfortunately, as Coach Austin Atwood pointed out, this was the exact situation the team was in just a few nights earlier against Unaka. “We did the same thing at Unaka,” Atwood said. “We were up 10 came out in the second half and just didn’t do what we needed to do to close out the game. We reminded them about that at halftime and I think we came out there in the third quarter and did a really good job.”
Despite increasing pressure from the Bulldogs and their young point guard, Cody McClain, Chase Phillips was able to step up and answer every Hampton basket for the first half of the quarter. A three pointer from Phillips with just over two minutes left on the clock, pushed the Longhorns ahead by 11 at 48-37, but Hampton was able to get a foothold in the last minute to cut the lead to 48-41. The Bulldogs began to get into some foul trouble that let J.R. Speed and Ryan Mahala close out the period 52-41.
Still trailing by 11, Hampton gave it their all in the last eight minutes of the game, making the first two buckets of the fourth quarter and cutting the deficit to just five. A foul against Dalton Timbs gave Johnson County one more at 53, but Hampton was still able to bring the game to a tie with four minutes on the clock. With every bucket counting, Phillips, Timbs, and Brian Dempsey all were able to make advancements, but there was no certain lead until the very last seconds of the game.
With only one minute on the clock, the Bulldogs were only one long-range shot away from a tie at 61-58. Another trip to the free throw line for Dalton Timbs proved critical as Hampton finally landed the three-pointer they desperately needed, only to trail 62-61 with just 16 seconds left in the game. Taking back possession of the ball, the Longhorns did everything they could to run down the clock and keep the Bulldogs from scoring again.
With pressure to get back the ball, the Bulldogs were right up in Johnson County’s face, but this proved to be their downfall as they ultimately fouled Chris Poteet at the seven-second mark. Landing both free throws and pushing his team up to 64 on the scoreboard, Hampton’s only option was to shoot a desperate long-range bucket. Even a last second time out didn’t put the Bulldogs in the position they needed and the final win went to the Johnson County Longhorns at 64-61.
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.