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Blue Devils wreck havoc on Horns

There’s just no two ways about it, Johnson County’s boys’ basketball team had an off night last week against the Unicoi County Blue Devils in Erwin. Acknowledging that the Blue Devils are one of the best teams in the conference, the Longhorns still had a lot of trouble finding their pace and getting back into the intensity that has marked their season thus far. Much of the problem might have been in the considerable time lapse since their last bout, considering the postponement of their Elizabethton game earlier in the week on top of the time off since the Arby’s Classic in Bristol.
“We just didn’t play well,” admitted Head Coach Austin Atwood.  “You can tell that we’ve had 13 days off. They rebounded well, shot the ball well, and just out scrapped us. They deserved it and we didn’t. Brian has played so well all year long, he’s due to have a game like that. You could tell we had a few days off. The biggest thing is just getting that game in.”
The first quarter actually remained fairly close, with Chase Phillips making some good progress, and keeping the team in the running even when Unicoi took the lead 11-19 by the end of the period. However, the gap that started in the last few minutes of the first continued to widen through the second, with the Blue Devils jumping well into the 20s by the time Johnson County hit the teens. Even when the deficit reached double digits Unicoi continued to press their advantage, landing a couple of good three pointers to leave the half well in control 20-34.
With that lackluster first half behind them, Johnson County did show some spirit in the third quarter with a lot of help coming from Chase Phillips, who nailed an early three, and Cody Bailie, who made several trips to the free throw line. As a result of this quick success, the Longhorns cut the lead from 14 all the way back to 8, and appeared to be poised for a big comeback. As Coach Atwood pointed out Unicoi, was just biding their time.
“We missed that assignment defensively giving them a wide open three,” Atwood said. “The very next possession one of our guys leaves his feet, they pump fake, it’s a three point play and it goes eight to 13 in two possessions and we didn’t even get a shot off. We’re three and two right now and it’s tough to win on the road. You’ve got to take one or two on the road if you can and you have to take care of home, but we knew that going in.”
With that dramatic shift, Johnson County was right back in the hole where they started from and digging deeper. Possibly the biggest problem of the whole night was dealing with the Blue Devil defense, especially for senior Brian Dempsey, who seemed to be the key target. Typically the lead scorer, Dempsey scored just 11 points on the game, several of which were free throws. Limiting Dempsey’s effectiveness proved to be one of the Blue Devil’s keys to a win.
“We were hoping we could play a little better in the second half, but with Brian, they did a great job of guarding him,” Atwood said.  “They triple teamed him. Anytime he touched it they had guys flying at him. Brian is a great player and he learned more than anybody through this. We’ll keep riding him and when he plays really well, we’re going to be good.”
By the start of the fourth, the Longhorns were down by more than 20, with little hope of doing any better. Chase Phillips continued to do his part, landing yet another three pointer, followed by baskets from Dalton Timbs and J.R. Speed. Even so, the drive was not enough to compensate for those earlier setbacks, leaving Unicoi to cruise to a huge final victory. The one benefit late in the game was that several younger players like Jose Guzman and Austin Houser got to come in off the bench and try their hand against a solid opponent., Houser did very well, hitting three baskets in the last minute of the game to close out 47-73.
Final Score:
Johnson County 47
Unicoi 73
Chase Phillips 14
Brian Dempsey 11
J.R. Speed 8
Austin Houser 6
Cody Bailie 6
Dalton Timbs 2