By Tim Chambers
Johnson County’s dominate play in the first half vanished in the third quarter against Elizabethton. The Longhorns missed their first 13 shots in the frame allowing the Cyclones to erase a four-point halftime deficit and win 71-59 on Friday night inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium.
It was the Three Rivers Conference opener for both teams.
Head coach Austin Atwood felt like it was more than their third-quarter shooting woes that led to their loss.
“They just came in here and were more physical than us,” said Atwood. “Eric Wilson had a heck of a game for them, but we were our own worst enemy. We were getting open looks, but we took some quick shots in the third quarter when we should have tried to have been more selective. I hope this loss lit a fire under us because I feel like we’re the better team when we have everybody but you got to go out and prove it on the court. We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Longhorns played without starting guard and key contributor Gavin Reece who missed due to a high ankle sprain. That put some added pressure on Blake Atwood who was forced to bring the ball up the floor against four Cyclone defenders who alternated defending him on the evening.
Johnson County led 15-12 after one and 32-28 at the half.
Atwood had 10 points at the break while Zach Eller and Lucas Phillips provided eight points apiece.
Everything appeared to be in Johnson County’s favor but the wheels
Eller’s three-ball to end the half had given them a four-point advantage and some much-needed momentum going into the break but all that would change due to a massive cold spell.
The Longhorns were held scoreless in the third quarter for more than six minutes. Elizabethton turned that into a 15-0 run and surged in front 43-32.
The Longhorns hit that last two shot attempts in the frame but trailed 43-36 heading into the final stanza. Wilson wasn’t about to let the Cyclones lose.
He finished the night with 21 points, four steals, six rebounds, and three assists. He was 6-of-6 from the foul line over the final two quarters.
Nico Ashley came off the bench to score 19 points. Evan Perkins added 15 points including a backbreaking three-ball with 5:01 remaining after the Horns had trimmed the deficit to four.
“We just couldn’t get stops when we needed too,” added Atwood. “Perkins hurt us on the outside and Ashley had a big game off the bench for them.”
Blake Atwood did his part to keep Johnson County in the game. He ended the night with a game-high 26 points including 10-of-10 from the foul line.
Zach Eller stepped up big; scoring 11 points while collecting a game-high six steals. Lucas Phillips contributed 13 points, and Troy Arnold added seven, but it wasn’t enough to offset the heroics of Wilson, Ashley, and Perkins. Carter Everett had seven points and seven rebounds for the Cyclones.
The Longhorns hope to have Reece back by Friday when they travel to Unicoi County.
“I think he’ll be ready to go by then,” added Atwood. “We definitely need to have him back in our lineup.”
Elizabethton 12 16 15 28 –71
Johnson Co. 15 17 4 23 –59
3-point goals—Eliz 7 (Wilson 4, Perkins 2, Rollins) JC 7 (Phillips 3, Atwood 2, Eller 2)
Wilson 21, Ashley 19, Perkins 15, Everett 7, Hughes 4, Rollins 3, Price 2
Johnson Co. (59)
Atwood 26, Phillips 13, Eller 11, Arnold 7, Oxentine 2, Cunningham 0, Cross 0