A slow start put the Longhorns to battling all the way through their second game of the Arbys Classic Tournament last week in Bristol. Playing against the Tabernacle Baptist Falcons all the way from the city of Freeport in the Bahamas, Johnson County got another invaluable opportunity to play against a team of a much higher caliber than they were used to in our local region. Even so, the game was a close one all the way down to the last minute, despite a first few minutes where missed shots and a slight injury to Senior Brian Dempsey set the team back.
We didnt make the shots early and gave up some easy buckets but they were athletic. Theyre a great team and very athletic, said Head Coach Austin Atwood. Dempsey got some good looks. He got banged up there right off the bat and we had to take him out a few minutes, but they got him fixed back and I tell you hes just a tough guard. Hes a tough guy to match up to people.
Dempsey actually got the first bucket of the night and put the Longhorns to a short lived 2-0 lead. Tabernacle quickly came back with three buckets in a row, offset by a second bucket from Dempsey to leave the score at 4-6. Cody Bailie came in with a good showing at the foul line, but the Falcons did a great job of taking advantage of any opportunity in the first to come out ahead 9-17. Chase Phillips helped even things out at the beginning of the second with a plus one, but the deficit continued to climb for the first four minutes of the quarter. Phillips really hit his stride right before the half, helping to cut the lead from 13-27 down to a much more manageable 20-29 by the time the period ended.
Dempsey and Phillips continued to be the lead scorers on into the third where the game really became a neck and neck race with Johnson County always just a few points behind. A three-point shot from Phillips cut it to six early at 23-29, and a solid layup later in the game from Dempsey brought the lead down to four at 29-33. Yet even with the Longhorns hot on their heels, Tabernacle never faltered, managing to hold on to the lead well into the fourth.
Their pressure bothered us a little, the pressure of the game, said Atwood. Our point guard didnt do a great job of getting us into our sets. Once we got it to half court sets we got some buckets, but we kind of let them dictate the tempo.
Coming down to the wire, every basket in the fourth carried its own weight in the final outcome. Phillips hit what was possibly the biggest shot of the night in the first couple of minutes, landing a three pointer that finally shifted the balance in Johnson Countys favor, 38-37. After fighting so hard to finally get it, the Longhorns didnt keep the lead very long, quickly facing a tie at 40 and then falling behind once again as Tabernacle made a couple of very smart plays to take back control 42-47.
We actually took the lead there in the fourth, reflected Atwood, but we missed a huge rebound and they get a kick out and a layup. That was the turning point for that part of the game. We really fought back and took back the lead. To give up an easy layup after that, its tough. Thats what we talked about, when you fight back that hard its tough to keep that lead.
Phillips and Dempsey continued to land enough shots to keep Johnson County in the game, but the Longhorns were never again able to gain the upper hand. Even with a couple of three pointers to their credit, Tabernacle poured out everything they had to get the win, ultimately proving victorious 53-59. Yet, even as a loss the game was still an entertaining match-up that could have only come thanks to the Arbys Classic.
Were just very, very thankful and feel fortunate to be invited to it, Atwood said. I hate that we didnt play any better but its a great experience for our kids, something they will always remember. Especially Brian, getting 28 the first night and 22 today, those will be some great memories.
Johnson County 53
Chase Phillips 23
Brian Dempsey 22
Dalton Timbs 4
Cody Bailie 4