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Horns hammer Blue Devils

JC’s Michael Oxentine (21) scores and is fouled by UC’s Danny Lowery (34). Oxentine scored 9 points in their 68-47 win. Photo by Tim Chambers

Johnson County 68, Unicoi County 47

By Tim Chambers

Sports editor

ERWIN—Blake Atwood’s 30-point performance turned some heads inside of Unicoi County’s gymnasium on Friday. So much that left Blue Devil fans with strained necks and others still shaking their heads after a 68-47 win by the Longhorns.
It was a key conference road victory for Johnson County now (1-1, 7-4) on the season. Head coach Austin Atwood was pleased with his most of his team’s performance.
“We played well for the most part, but we did have a few bad stretches,” said Coach Atwood. “We had 16 assists, and I was pleased with that, but we also had 12 turnovers which are too many. We finished the game well, and I liked the way we shared the basketball. Any win is good, but a road win is great. I told our kids that this was a must win for us after losing to Elizabethton at home last week.”
Longhorns score the game’s first 14 points
The Longhorns came out smoking hot, looking to make an early statement. They did so by going up 14-0.
Atwood and Lucas Phillips had a pair of treys apiece while Zach Eller added a deuce and a couple of steals that led to five points. Brock Thompson hit a long trey to get Unicoi County on the board after a six-minute drought.
The Longhorns led 20-6 after one and continued to pour it on behind the red-hot shooting of Atwood.
He lit up the Blue Devils for 14 second-quarter points that including a trio of treys. The senior all-state candidate had 23 points at the half helping Johnson County to a 40-21 halftime advantage.
He said it was all about taking control of the game early.
“We got in them defensively at the start and didn’t let them score,” said the younger Atwood. “We kept running our transition and didn’t let them get back in their zone. That helped us to stretch out lead plus we were able to knock down some shots. We didn’t want to slow it down, but we did try and take good shots. This was a win we had to have. We don’t want to lose another one as we did against Elizabethton.”
Slow third quarter start but a strong finish
The Longhorns hit a lull to start the third quarter that allowed Unicoi County to go on a 7-0 win and slice into the deficit but that would be short-lived.
Baskets by Eller and Oxentine put a stop to that then Troy Arnold fed Oxentine and Phillips with a pair of assists that enabled them to score and push the lead back to 14 at 56-42.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Horns who
decided to turn up the
defensive pressure. Eller converted one of his six
steals into a three-point play while Atwood was knocking down a boatload of free throws.
Arnold’s basket increased the lead to 61-43 with 3:45 remaining that allowed the Longhorns to empty their bench.
We’re a smaller group this year, so it’s important that we play with a lot of heart and hustle,” said Arnold. “We were working extra hard to front their post while trying to be physical. We don’t let the fact that we’re undersized bother us. We know we have to hustle and play our tails off to win.”

Longhorn leaders
Atwood provided five rebounds, four assists and two steals in addition to his
30 points. Eller stepped up big with 10 points, six steals. Oxentine provided nine points while Phillips
recorded eight. Arnold led the team in rebounding with eight.
Thompson was the lone Blue Devil in double figures with 24.
The Longhorns were scheduled to play at Cloudland on Monday and Mitchell County on Tuesday, but the snow was expected to cancel both games.
In that event, they will travel to Mitchell County on Thursday and to Cloudland on Saturday.

Johnson Co. 20 20 10 18 –68
Unicoi Co. 6 15 11 15 –47

3-point goals—JC 6 (Atwood 4, Phillips 2) UC 2 (Thompson 2)

JOHNSON CO. (68)
Atwood 30, Eller 10,
Oxentine 9, Phillips 8, Arnold 4, Cunningham 6, Cross 3.

UNICOI CO. (47)
Thompson 24, Casey 3, Lingerfelt 3, Lowery 4, O’Dell 3, Thelen 4, Holt 2, Lynch 3