By Tim Chambers

AFTON—The third time’s a charm proved to be true for Johnson County Middle School on Thursday in the championship game of the Little Watauga Conference tournament. The Longhorns got sweet revenge against Hampton after suffering two losses during the regular season to the Bulldogs.
Thursday’s 46-41 victory at Chuckey-Doak Middle School allowed them to bring back the first place trophy to Johnson County and enter the district tournament play as the top seed.
Head coach Devin Shaw was all smiles after his team’s victory.
“We were confident going into the game because we felt like we were the better team,” said Shaw. “All the kids were fired up but calm. We knew Hampton was undefeated in the conference so that too motivated us to step it up. We beat them in transition and Zack and Nate controlled the boards. Corie, Preston and Gavin did a great job of pressuring their guards. I am very proud of our kids.”
The Longhorns got off to a slow start falling behind 5-1 in the early going. Gavin Ward helped them surge back by tossing in six points in the quarter while Nate Rice and Preston Greer each had a basket.
The Longhorns led 12-9 after one.

Horns step up the defense
Hampton got a pair of treys by Morgan Lyons in the second period but could muster only one more field goal.
The Longhorns got a late basket by Nate Rice and five points from Corie Neely that enabled them to maintain a slim 22-20 halftime advantage.
Things stayed close throughout the third period with Johnson County holding on to their slim advantage.
Preston Greer and Zack Parsons scored two quick baskets and Neely added four points late in the quarter after Hampton had tied the game at 28 all.
The Longhorns led 32-28 heading into the final period.
It appeared as if Johnson County would put the game away by scoring four quick points to start the third. Hampton battled back to get within two at 36-34 only to watch the Longhorns engineer a 9-0 run.
Baskets by Parsons, Neely, Ward and Rice would up the ante at 45-36 with 32 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs got a clutch three-ball by R.J. Tolley and four points by Connor Jones but it just wasn’t enough to knock off the Longhorns.

Game leaders
Neely led the Longhorns with 14 points, four steals and four assists. He was named the MVP of the tournament. Rice had a big game with 10 points and seven rebounds. Preston Greer contributed nine points and three steals. Gavin Ward contributed eight points, five rebounds and three steals. Zack Parsons gathered a team high 10 rebounds to go along with his five points.
Lyons scored a game high 17 points for Hampton. Connor Jones added eight points and three steals.

Little Watauga Conference Tournament Championship
Johnson County 46, Hampton 41

JCMS (46)
Neely 14, Rice 10, Greer 9, Ward 8, Parsons 5, Brown 0

Hampton (41)
Lyons 17, Jones 8, McCoury 5, Tolley 3, Whitehead 3, Harrison 3, Lewis 2

JCMS 12 10 10 14 — 46
Hampton 9 11 8 13 —- 41
3-point goals—JCMS 0, Hampton 6 (Lyons 4, Tolley 1, Harrison 1)