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Cyclones feud off Longhorns

JC’s Ethan Bower (11) takes a free throw during the Longhorns 77-76 loss to Elizabethton. Jackson Earnhardt (21) and Clayton Cross (24) stand ready to return to action. Photo by Joey Icenhour

Cyclones 77,Longhorns 76

By Tim Chambers
Sports Editor

For the second time this week, Johnson County fans got to witness a classic high school basketball ball game in which the Longhorns took one of the area’s top teams down to the wire but fell by the slimmest margin at the end. Elizabethton jumped on top early in the overtime period and held on for a 77-76 win inside a very loud Ray Shoun Gymnasium. 

The game was tied at 66 at the end of regulation. The Cyclones could have put it away but missed a few crucial free throws that left the door open. Jackson Earnhardt then showed why he’s one of the best players in the area. He took the ball in the half-court, worked his way to the front, and swished a 30-footer as time expired, sending the gym into a frenzy. He and Elizabethton’s Jake Roberts showed in this contest why they are two of the area’s top players. 

Earnhardt finished with a game-high 31 points while Roberts had 30, including seven in the overtime period. Roberts hit a crucial free throw with seconds remaining because Johnson County’s Graham Reece threw one in 88 feet the floor’s length to account for the final score.

“We’re playing well right now said JCHS’ head coach Austin Atwood. “We’re playing tournament basketball, and that’s what you want to be doing this time of year. I can’t say enough about this group of seniors. They all get along, and they’re enjoyable to coach. You couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids.”

Elizabethton led 13-10 after one and 31-25 at halftime. But things would change in the second half, especially near the end. Elizabethton was still up by six 46-40 going into the final quarter Zack Parsons, who had made a statement in the third period. Simcox would tally seven in the frame while Earnhardt blistered the nets for 14, including the game tying shot.

The Longhorns trailed 50-40 with 6:33 remaining in the game when they began to rally behind Earnhardt.The Cyclones failed to put the game away on the charity stripe, and Simcox gave them a chance to tie by converting a three-point play with 08 seconds remaining to get them within two at 65-63. The Cyclones were fouled and went to the line and could have put it away but made only one of two. That’s when Earnhardt raced down the court and sank a shot that was heard all the way back in Boone, N.C., his home town. Ironically his buzzer-beater didn’t bring the most crowd noise. It was the two dunks that he threw down in the final quarter that electrified the Johnson County crowd while shocking the Cyclones faithful, who set stunned.

Several Longhorns played well, including Parsons, who finished with 14 points and ten rebounds. Cross added 10 points, six boards, and three steals. Bower had only seven points but did collect four steals and six assists. Simcox had seven points and seven rebounds.William Willocks scored 14 points to aid the Cyclones’ win, while Brayden Phillips contributed 11.  Earnhardt summed up his Johnson County career just recently. 

“I’ve had a blast,” he said. “I love playing for these coaches and this team. We’re starting to get a good feel for each other. The fans have been very supportive too.”

Not all was lost as Johnson County won the junior varsity game 60-49.