By Matt Hill

The JCHS Boys Basketball Team played another classic with arch-rival Unicoi County Friday night, but in the end the Blue Devils left Mountain City with a win again.
The Longhorns went down to the wire with the Blue Devils, but a late surge propelled Unicoi County to 65-57 win at Shoun Gym.
Unicoi outscored JCHS 9-3 to end the game, but it was one Unicoi had to earn.
The Longhorns went 10-of-23 from the foul line and missed some key shots, but it was a great effort.
With the Longhorns coming in on a slide, Unicoi was a good favorite to win.
However, Blue Devil head coach John English knew this would be a tough contest for his team.
“We got what we expected and I knew what we were going to get,” he said. “If people came up here thinking it was going to be easy they don’t know a lot about Johnson County or Coach Atwood. They gave it all they had, it came down to a few plays late. They battled.
“Most teams couldn’t absorb a two-starter loss, so that says a lot about them.”
The first quarter was a battle and when Sammy Hampton hit a three-pointer at the end of the quarter, Unicoi was only ahead 17-16.
The second quarter was a continual battle and in one of JCHS’ best halves of the season, the Longhorns were tied at 32-32.
“I thought we played very hard,” Atwood said. “The mistakes were fixable, fatigue mistakes. I thought we missed some easy buckets. We took 19 threes and we’re not going to win shooting 19 threes, but without Cody and Wade it was a pretty good showing.”
Unicoi built a sizable lead in the fourth quarter thanks to the play of Logan Lyle and Holden Tolley, who finished with 20 points and 19 points, respectively
Some key buckets from D.W. Whitson, including the one that put the Blue Devils up nine at 50-41, seem to put the Unicoi in charge.
However, the Longhorns had one more run in them as two big buckets from Eric Cullop got JCHS back into it and the Longhorns eventually cut the Unicoi edge to one at 52-51.
Unicoi hit the key shots down the stretch though and pulled out the win.
“I thought fatigue played a big role tonight,” Atwood said.
SCORING: Jason Steele 18, Eric Cullop 15, Sammy Hampton 8, Carlton Tugman 7, Jimmy Arnold 4, Austin Humphrey 3, Mikey Freeman 2.
Monday’s Game
Hampton 66
JCHS 44
The Hampton Bulldogs were on fire Monday and for the second time in four days, the Longhorns fell to an arch-rival.
JCHS started five seniors and even got an early spark from Dalton Slemp and Sam Tester and the Longhorns came out ready to play.
Then Hampton went on a shooting spectacular and by halftime, the Longhorns trailed 35-18 at half.
“We have got to play above our heads to play smart,” Atwood said. “The thing that gets me is we can’t control the rebounding and can’t control how we defend. I’m afraid our kids have packed it in and are ready for it to be over.
“I know we can beat Elizabethton Friday, but I don’t know if our guys want to. Basketball is a long season and we have a bunch of good kids on the team, but it’s not good enough being a good kid because it wears on you. You have to be mentally tough. They’re physically tough, but I don’t know if we have a mentally tough kid on the team that can soak in a long season. We never gone into the tournament, girls or boys, with this kind of mental aspect. It’s something we can change in three days. We’re not practicing Tuesday. They need some time off and it gives me a whole day with Coach Pardue and Coach Arnold to look at some film and get any little edge we can.”
The Longhorns and Bulldogs had to endure a 15-minute delay due to a fan incident in the stands, but it didn’t change the outcome.
The Longhorns could cut the Bulldog lead to no more than 14 points.
“There were a lot of hurt souls in that locker room tonight and they were embarrassed,” Atwood said. “There were a lot of embarrassed fans and I want to apologize to the fans for playing like that in a big rivalry game. This meant more to the fans than it did us.”
SCORING: Jason Steele 11, Sammy Hampton 8, Jimmy Arnold 6, Mikey Freeman 6, Carlton Tugman 3, Austin Humphrey 3, Dalton Slemp 2, Eric Cullop 2, Daniel Swift 1, Sam Tester 1.
Saturday’s Game
Cloudland 55
JCHS 52

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