Longhorns pull off strong win over Holston Cavaliers
Getting and keeping the ball was not an issue in the game, but with multiple missed opportunities at the net, including simple lay-ups, Johnson County relied on maintaining their defense to stay ahead in the game. Even senior players like River Cazire admitted that the team would have to step up their efforts to be competitive against later opponents like Cloudland. “We’re just going to take it a step at a time, a game at a time,” Cazire said. “I know for tougher teams we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did, but right now we’re just focused on trying to get into the championship on Saturday. We have a lot of good team chemistry right now, everybody getting along. It’s been a good season so far. We just hope we can keep it up. Overall, I think we just need to rebound better and lessen the turnovers. Other than that I’m pretty satisfied with the way we played, we just need to get better.”
The first half was mostly a back and forth race across the court with little in the way of actual scoring. Johnson County led the game from the first bucket, but had only scored four times in the first half of the first quarter. Leading 11-0, the Cavaliers finally got on the board with just over a minute left in the period, but in the last 20 seconds, Cazire, along with Brian Dempsey, had pushed the Longhorns up to 15.
The pace picked up a little in the second quarter, with Holston managing a bucket and a couple of foul shots early on. Both of these advances were answered by shots from Chase Phillips. Even so, the Longhorns only completed one actual offensive play for the whole eight minutes, combining with six free throw points to bring the halftime score to 24.
“That first half looked like paint drying, “ said Coach Atwood. “We didn’t execute very well offensively, and defensively. We didn’t play very hard the first half. I thought we really came in the second half more aggressive, rebounded better, executed a little better, didn’t go through a non-scoring run. If that had been Cloudland out there they would have poured it to them from the get go and not let up.”
Johnson County’s defense held strong all the way through the second half, keeping the Cavaliers at 8 for the first four minutes of the third quarter, while help from Ryan Mahala allowed the Longhorns to climb into the 30’s. Things picked up a little for Holston late in the period, putting up a couple of hard won buckets and getting to the foul line a few times to let them close out at 16. To their credit, the Cavaliers never once showed signs of giving up and actually started to make some headway in the fourth, jumping to 18 early on and pushing into a strong couple of minutes at the end of the game where they managed to gain more than they had the whole first half.
With the lead well in hand, Atwood began putting in some of his younger players from the bench. For those like freshman Cody Bailey, the game was a good opportunity to get out on the court and get some time under pressure. “Bailey is going to have to come on and play some,” Atwood said. “We were hoping to wait until after Christmas to start dressing him so that he could get some freshman and JV games under his belt, but we’re going to have to throw him in the fire. We’re just a work in progress, but we’re trying to get there.”
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.