With the combination of beating the Hampton Bulldogs at home just a few days before and knowing that they had already come within two points of defeating Elizabethton on the road earlier in the year, optimism for last weeks homecoming game against the Cyclones was fairly high. Yet, as with any sport even the best team can have a bad night, and unfortunately for the Longhorns, Elizabethton proved to be one of the toughest games theyve played so far.
The game actually started off as expected with both teams staying very close together. Shots by seniors Brian Dempsey and Dalton Timbs saw the Longhorns trying to keep up with the Cyclone offense and resulting in ties at two, four and six. From there Elizabethton pulled out ahead, eventually hitting 10, but a solid three-pointer from J.R. Speed closed the gap to one at 9-10 before too much damage could be done. Both teams also played hard defense in the first, with the result being that neither side broke into the 20s until the very last minute of the period. In those last few seconds before the second, Elizabethton did manage to go into a rapid four-basket streak that left them well ahead 14-24.
The Longhorns managed to bring it back in check within the first couple of minutes thanks to a back-to-back three-point shot and layup by Dempsey followed by another bucket from Timbs. The Cyclones made a basket of their own in retaliation, but a huge long range shot from Timbs with just over a minute before the half saw Johnson County get as close as they would to taking back the lead, separated by just five points at 24-29. As the Cyclones broke into the 30s in those last few plays, a plus one from Cody Bailie helped keep the gap from widening too much, but the Longhorn still went to the locker room trailing 27-33.
When we played them at their place that was the worst game we played all year and we lost by two, said Head Coach Austin Atwood. After we watched film, we realized we played awful, but now tonight we duplicated that. At least we did play decent defense down there. Here we played good defense only in the second quarter. We held them to nine most of the second, but weve got to create for our defense and we just didnt do that. We cant play from behind. We discussed this all year. I just didnt do a very good job.
While the first half was a valiant effort to hang on and keep the lead within reach, the second half was one setback after another. Brian Dempsey kicked off the third with a fast layup, but it was offset by the three-point turn around that Elizabethton made. Back and forth players like Cody Bailie and J.R Speed were successful in finding the goal, but every time the Cyclones would find a way to pull just a little farther ahead.
By the end of the third, the deficit was still in single digits but just barely with Johnson County trailing 41-50. Even so, the worst was saved for last as Elizabethton not only landed at 10, 41-51 but actually grew their lead throughout the quarter. Missed shots, including numerous free throws became more and more costly as the final eight minutes of the game ticked away. By the two- minute mark the deficit was at 15, and even with Chase Phillips and Dalton Timbs hitting some big shots there was simply not enough time to regain ground. In the end, with the Cyclones still making buckets, Johnson County had to settle with one of their biggest losses this year, coming up short 52-70.
I didnt do a very good job coaching and they didnt do a very good job playing, said Coach Atwood. When you continue to allow the guy youre guarding to do the same thing continuous, time after time, thats a problem. It starts with me, but our guys arent as tough as they need to be. Elizabethton came in here and just did whatever they wanted to do. We didnt force them to take the shots that we wanted them to take, we didnt block out, and we missed free throws. When you give up 24 in a quarter youre not going to win very many games.
Johnson Co 52
Brian Dempsey 21
Dalton Timbs 10
Chase Phillips 10
J.R. Speed 6
Cody Bailie 5