By Matt Hill

It finally looked like the seven-year jinx of Unicoi County defeating JCHS was going to come to an end last Tuesday night, but foul trouble and missed opportunities were too much for the Longhorns to overcome.
In another classic, the underdog Longhorns took Unicoi all the way to overtime before running out of gas in a 59-51 defeat in Erwin.
JCHS led 39-32 in the fourth quarter, but a 9-0 run gave the Blue Devils a 41-39 advantage.
The signs were there of a Longhorn win, but the hex seems like it won’t go away.
“We just didn’t close out,” JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. “We hold them to two points in the first quarter and we score four. We missed six two-footers that we make night in and night out. We had bad luck and they shot 28 free throws and we shot 14. But give credit to Erwin and to D,W, Whitson because he turned it on and he got down in the post and came through with two three point plays and knocked down a three.”
Whitson’s three-point play gave Unicoi a 49-48 advantage, but Cody Greer answered to give JCHS the lead again at 50-49 and then a steal from Sammy Hampton led to a free-throw to increase the edge to 51-49.
The Blue Devils came back with two free-throws with 27 seconds left to tie the game at 51-51 with 23 seconds left when the Longhorns ran the clock down to five seconds and called timeout.
JCHS didn’t get the inbounds play it wanted and called another timeout at 4.2. The ball then went off Unicoi out of bounds with 2.7 seconds, setting up a three from Sammy Hampton that just missed.
“We got a wide open look, but it just didn’t go in,” Atwood said. “We did a run a side out of bounds to get it to Steele then ran a play on the next out of bounds where one of our best shooters got a great look.
In the overtime, the Longhorns had two players foul out and JCHS was unable to handle Unicoi’s last run.
The Blue Devils outscored JCHS 8-0 in overtime.
“We knew with Mikey Freeman on the bench and Jason Steele with four and Cody Greer with four we’re going to be in a heap of trouble,” Atwood said.
Still, there were a lot of positives that came out of the game, including the play of Sammy Hampton.
Hampton finished with eight points off the bench and gave the Longhorns a spark in the second half.
“He’s a little green, but he’s a doggoned competitor and that’s what we like about him,” Atwood said. “He did some bad things Tuesday night, but he did a lot of good things. We’re trying to get rid of the bad and increase the good. Sammy brings a lot to the table for us.”
After a slow start, Steele took over with 18 points and dominated the boards.

“He’s playing more like one of the best players in the conference and it’s taken us awhile to get him where he needs to be, but he’s starting to figure it out on his own and he’s still not playing near where we think he can. As good as everybody thinks he is, I know how good he can be and sometimes I don’t think he realizes how good he can be. He’s about to figure out what it takes to be really good. Second half he did a good job.
SCORING: Jason Steele 18, Cody Greer 11, Sammy Hampton 8, Eric Cullop 5, Austin Humphrey 4, Wade Tugman 3, Mikey Freeman 2
Friday’s Game
Sullivan East 65
JCHS 36
It was a totally different story against the Three Rivers favorite to win the league as the Longhorns struggled with sloppy play and poor shooting.
The Longhorns couldn’t get anything going as they scored only 12 first half points and trailed by 16 at the half.
To make matters worse, junior Jordan Cross was able to celebrate his 1000th point on the Longhorns in the second half.
JCHS once again struggled with foul trouble.
The Longhorns and the Patriots were able to get some young players into the game in the fourth quarter.
SCORING: Jason Steele 16, Cody Greer 6, Wade Tugman 4, Chase Kleine 3, Jimmy Arnold 3, Carlton Tugman 2, Austin Humphrey 2.
JV Report
The Longhorns lost to Sullivan East 58-49 Friday night in Bluff City.
Carlton Tugman topped JCHS with 13 points
Freshmen Report
The JCHS Longhorns lost to Sullivan East 52-39 Thursday night in Mountain City.
Daniel Swift topped JCHS with 13 points while Chase Kleine added nine.
Last Monday, the Longhorns defeated Unicoi 54-40.
Judd Hammons led the Longhorns with 18 points.
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