JC’s Michael Oxentine (21) grabs one of his team high 10 rebounds against HV. Oxentine added 17 points in their 80-79 District 1-AA tournament win. Photos by Joey Icenhour
By Tim Chambers
BLUFF CITY—As Jerry Reed once sang when you’re hot, you’re hot, and boy was Lucas Phillips sizzling hot on Wednesday night versus Happy Valley. Johnson County ended a 19-game losing streak behind a tournament-high 40-point performance by Phillips and won an 80-79 double-overtime barnburner over Happy Valley to stay alive in the District 1-AA basketball tournament played inside the Dyer Dome at Sullivan East High School on Wednesday. It was a game of highs and lows from start to finish.
The Longhorns dazzled the crowd in the third quarter by scoring a season-high 29 points but couldn’t stretch out their lead because the defense gave up 30 to Happy Valley in the fourth stanza. When the Horns needed a basket, it was usually Phillips or Michael Oxentine that got it for them. Phillips added ten rebounds to his credit in addition to his 40 point heroics.
“He doesn’t get a minute’s rest,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “I’m not going to give him too much praise because he could have played better throughout the year. But when the chips were on the table, he and Michael (Oxentine) both did a heck of a job.”
Oxentine added 17 points and 11 boards.
“Our seniors Lucas, Michael and Darren Cunningham have been a huge part of our basketball success over the past few years,” said Atwood. “We were in the sub-state last years, and they were a huge part of that. It’s been a tough year losing all the talent that we did off last year’s team, but those guys have played hard, and I really appreciate all they did for our program. They played their tails off to keep our season alive. They all stepped up and made plays.”
The effort especially included Oxentine, who tallied 10 points off the offensive glass.
“I thought we did a good job of getting on the boards,” said Atwood. Blake Young had a good game for them, and he created some matchup problems for us.”
While Young caused matchup problems for Johnson County, Phillips must have caused the Warriors to have nightmares on the ride home. The Longhorns needed every one of his 40 points because the Warriors placed four players in double figures led by Young’s 22 points and 20 by sharp-shooting guard Dylan Willis. Luke Roberts finished with 12 points, and James Harmon tallied 11. The game was a nailbiter at the end. Phillips nailed a runner that made it 79-77, but the Warriors tied the game with 44 seconds remaining on a bucket by Alex Lunceford in overtime No. 2.
Phillips broke the deadlock by sinking 1-fo-2 free throws with 33 seconds remaining. Johnson County could have put the game away in the extra session down the stretch but missed three free throws in the final 23 seconds. Happy Valley rebounded a missed charity toss and headed up the floor for a potential game-winner but Ethan Bower. Phillips gave the Longhorns a 79-77 lead with a drive to the hoop.
Alex Lunceford answered on the other end to tie the game with 45 seconds left in the second overtime.Phillips made one of two free throws with 33.3 seconds remaining. He went to the line again with 17 seconds left, but couldn’t connect, and Happy Valley had its chance. They got the ball and raced up the floor, but Ethan Bower came from behind with a key hustle play that resulted in a clean steal, which secured the win as the Horns ran out the clock.
Atwood agreed it was a big play that saved the moment when he said, “He had four or five in the game, but that one was huge,” started Atwood. “I told him that kind of puts a staple in for you to be a part of this program. It defines the way.