November 28, 2018
By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Imagine getting to leave the country for five days to play basketball. That’s just what the Longhorns did last week when they departed Tri-Cities Airport in Blountville on Tuesday and arrived in Freeport, Bahamas 90 minutes later. Some of those players like Troy Arnold and Zack Eller had to be amazed. They rode a bus three hours one way to Claiborne County to play a regular season football game. And the sites on the beach in Freeport sort of overshadow those of downtown Tazewell, Tennessee. The Longhorns had a remarkable trip according to head coach Austin Atwood. He commended his team for how they represented Johnson County.
“I had several coaches and parents from the other schools ask me how they behave so well,” said Atwood. “It’s just type of kids we have and how they were raised. We took them to the straw market place where they could wheel and deal a little and all of them enjoyed that. The beach was right in our back door at the resort. We had plenty of food at the resort and all of it was included in the trip. Many of our kids got to see stuff they never had before. It was definitely a culture learning experience for most of them.”
It didn’t take long for everyone to know who the Longhorns were. They pulled off a huge shocker in their first game by upsetting tournament favorite, Columbus Georgia High School 61-56. Blake Atwood fired in 38 points to lead the way and Troy Arnold added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Blake played really well and so did Troy,” said Atwood. “Those teams were athletic and Troy and Zach Eller held their own on the boards.
The game was close all the way and several Longhorns stepped up late to fuel the win.
“Troy hit two shots that were huge,” added Atwood. “Gavin Reece had a big basket and Zach Eller’s three that he hit was maybe the biggest shot of all.”
The Longhorns lost their next game to Sunland 61-48 after leading 31-30 at the half. Atwood scored a game high 21 points while Eller had a good outing scoring 12.
“Columbus Georgia was the best team that we’ve beaten since I’ve been head coach here,” said Atwood. “Sunland was from the Bahamas and they were big and athletic. The teams from down here are starting to shoot the ball well and that makes it tough with all their athleticism. We played well in the second game but they just shot well in the second half.”
The players were treated to a night of seafood while three and the resort where they stayed was breathtaking. It was the first airplane ride for many of the players which also made Atwood happy that they got to go. I made the Freeport trip in 2003 to watch my son play in the same basketball tournament. I learned that several improvements have been made over the years and the Tabernacle Baptist Thanksgiving Classic was celebrating two decades of existence. Atwood feels like his team will benefit from the five days that they spent together.
“We had to dig deep and play hard down there to compete,” said Atwood. “Our players enjoyed the time they spent around one another
and so did the parents that went and fans. It’s a trip that everyone will always remember.”