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Here's hoping to a new thirst willl end 30-year drought

By: Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Writer
[email protected]

It was a time when Ghostbusters, Gremlins and the Terminator came onto the movie scene. Tickets to watch them at one of the cinemas cost $2.50 and a gallon of gas could be purchased for a buck-ten.
That was three decades ago in 1984.
It was also the first and only time that a Johnson County basketball team has ever made the state tournament.
The Watauga Conference was a dominate league during that span. Hampton had made the elite eight in 1981 and finished runner-up in the state to East Roberson in 1983.

The Bulldogs handed Johnson County two of its seven losses during the 83-84 season. In fact, they never beat Hampton. But they won the games that mattered.
The team was led by the dynamic duo of Jeff Pardue and Tony Hagler.
Perhaps retired legendary coach Charlie Bayless said it best. He once told me that Pardue and Hagler were two of the most dominating players that he ever saw play in the league. And Bayless had seen many.
He began his tenure as head coach at Happy Valley in 1953. Ironically his team would be one of four standing in the way of a regional championship.
The Longhorns had just mauled University High 80-54 in the final game of the regular season. Hagler’s contribution was 35 points and 17 rebounds. He won the league’s scoring title his junior season. But he wouldn’t repeat.
Pardue ended the year with 798 points and averaged more than 23 points per game. He and Hagler were surrounded by some excellent guard play in Jimmy Bellamy.
They complimented Hagler’s output by scoring 22 and 10 points respectively. That was the last of the blowout wins.
A 69-53 win over South Greene in the first round of the District tournament wasn’t easy. Pardue was whistled for three fouls early which kept the game close. It also didn’t set well with head coach Mark Blevins.
“We didn’t play very well,” said Blevins. “I feel like (one of the officials) has a personal vendetta against Johnson County.”
Blevins was in his second year as head coach of the Longhorns. And during that span he had compiled a 50-18 record. His teams were tough and they played hard. And the head coach didn’t back down from anyone. He had their backs and they had his.
The Longhorn Express failed to roll in the semifinals. They got derailed by the Bayless-led Warriors despite getting 25 and 21 points respectively from Pardue and Hagler.

And they had to dig deep to pull out a third place finish over Unicoi County.
They won the game 56-54 with Pardue scoring 22. Hagler provided 15 while Bellamy and Brian Ward would add 10 apiece.
The ‘Longhorns were considered a dangerous opponent in the upcoming Regional but Hampton was picked to win it. Happy Valley had upset them in the District championship game. But all that wouldn’t mean diddly-squat in the Regional tournament.

They squeaked by Powell Valley 52-49 in their first game. Then Hampton got upset by Unicoi County in the semi-finals.
The Blue Devils would await the winner of Happy Valley and Johnson County.
This time the outcome would be different and the duo would be dynamic. Pardue fired in 27 points and Hagler added 16 more and 10 rebounds in their 50-49 nail-biter win. The only other player to score for the Longhorns was Jeff Morehouse who had seven.
They now had to beat Unicoi County for a fourth time to earn the Regional championship. The Blue Devils started three players that stood 6’4’’ or better. Blevins made sure to let them know what was at stake.

“I thought we might come out a bit cocky,” said Blevins. “Unicoi had just beat Hampton and were playing well. All of us were pretty evenly matched. I knew that beating them for a fourth time would be difficult.”
He was spot-on with his analysis.
They gathered a hard fought 54-49 victory.
Pardue had 23 points and was named the tournament’s MVP. Hagler added 18 and Bellamy scored nine. Both joined Pardue on the All-Tournament team.
This set the stage for the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium. Their opponent would be state-ranked Knoxville South Young.

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