Fans got their first real look at Longhorn basketball this season at the annual Three Rivers Conference Jamboree in Elizabethton last week. Playing a 20-minute half where the clock ran continuously, both girls and boys took on the Happy Valley Warriors. Although neither team was able to pull out a win, both had very strong showings that resulted in close games. The Lady Longhorns came up just two points shy at 22-24, and the boys had a real nail-biter at 21-22.
With a packed crowd and teams from all over the area watching, the pressure was high to perform, and both Coach Todd Whittemore and Coach Austin Atwood seemed pleased with the overall results. We did a good job at the Jamboree, Whittemore said. It was a really great environment. There were a lot of people in that gym. We didnt play scared, which was something I was looking for to see whether or not would happen, and I was pleased to see the fact that we werent intimidated by the evening with all of the other schools and fans.
Echoing this sentiment, Atwood also noted how the boys performed under the pressure. We really wanted to play through and see how they would react. It was about like I thought, like a young team, but were a work in progress. Junior Dalton Timbs made most of the big gains for the Longhorns, with a couple of two-pointers and one three. Sophomore Chase Phillips was right behind, landing two baskets and a free throw, while Brian Dempsey brought in three buckets to push the Longhorns up by six overall. J.R. Speed was the last to make a score along with one free throw from Senior Chris Poteet at the foul line.
Although Johnson County came up just shy of a win, falling behind one point thanks to a couple of well timed Happy Valley three-pointers, Atwood was still confident that his team could have come out on top in a regular conference game. We didnt try to do a whole lot, Atwood said. I was disappointed in the way we rebounded and in the way we defended, but, then again, that comes from us being young and not having scrimmages or anything yet. With those two boys being young, Chase Phillips and J.R. Speed have to make up the bulk of our scoring. They were both a little passive, not quite used to the speed and the physical part of the game. They got knocked around a little bit, but theyre going to come on and theyre both very good players. We took the lead about eight seconds or nine, and we could have called a timeout to set it up, but we didnt. We just played through.
The Lady Longhorns also took the jamboree as an opportunity to get some much needed time back on the court, giving Whittemore the chance to assess where the most work needs to be done. We played hard and we executed pretty well, Whittemore said. Weve got to get a lot better rebounding. Rebounding right now, we cant just turn it on and off. Defense and rebounding is one way all the time. Right now our top three players are coming right out of volleyball. Were a little rusty and its going to take a couple of weeks to get back to where they were last year. Happy Valley is really good. They have really good guards and I felt that this early in the season to play to a 21-point game with them was really good.
Although the Lady Horns seemed to have a good handle on turnovers, Whittemore went on to point out that there is a lot of room for improvement on the defense as well. Weve got to recognize that even if youre in the zone, its still man to man with anyone in your area. If your head isnt on a swivel looking for people then what happened out there tonight is whats going to happen.
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