By Tim Chambers
Roan Mountain—The dynamic duo of Dalton Pope and Connor Simcox proved to be too much for Cloudland to handle on Monday night. Pope tossed in 17 points and gathered eight steals while Simcox amassed 23 rebounds and 11 points in their 41-19 win over the Highlanders in middle school basketball action inside of Sonny Smith Gymnasium.
The varsity girls played a good first half but lost to undefeated Cloudland 41-21.
Johnson County 41
The Longhorns got down early as Cloudland jumped out t to a 7-1 lead only to watch the Longhorns go an 8-0 run to close the quarter and lead 9-7. The big shot was a three-ball by James Potter that ignited the rally.
The Highlanders tied the game at 9-9, but four straight points by Simcox and Baird and a jumper in the paint by Isaiah Fenner allowed the Horns to take a 21-11 halftime advantage.
“I thought we were playing hard early, but we just couldn’t get a shot to fall,” said Longhorns’ head coach Mark McClain. “We got in our press and finally started getting some layups. I thought our kids did a good job of recovering from that.”
The Longhorns begin to pull away in the third quarter by way of their defense. Baird converted a pair of steals into a layup, and George Grill scored on a runner to make it 27-13.
Thanks to a pair of buckets on the inside by Simcox and Baird’s 15-foot jumper, the horn’s lead ballooned to 20 in the fourth quarter.
“Our shots begin to fall in the second half, and we got some momentum and started building up the lead,” added McClain. “We put Dalton upfront on the press, and he gets a lot of his points off of steals. He’s a great leader and a good team player. Connor ruled the board, although some of those he missed and went and got it back. We’re working on putting the ball in the basket consistently, and when we can do that, we’ll become a very good basketball team.”
Grill had four points and four assists to help the Longhorns’ cause. Potter had the three and Fenner to close out the Longhorns’ scoring with a deuce.
Dylan McClellan led the Highlanders with nine points.
Johnson County 26
Kyle Sluder and Eli Dickens scored eight points apiece while leading the Longhorns to victory in the seventh-grade contest. Chris Reece had a good game scoring five. Jace Stout and Zack Lunceford provided three points, respectively.
Johnson County 21
The Highlanders were coming off a preseason tournament championship win over Liberty Bell and showed why they are considered to be the area’s top junior high girl’s team. But the Lady Longhorns didn’t back
down and held their own for a half.
The Highlanders jumped on top 12-4, but Sierra Green’s three-point play got the Horns back within five at 12-7. Sahara McKinney stretched it back to 16-7, including a nice little runner in the final seconds.
Johnson County’s inability to score did them in the second quarter. They could muster only one field goal and trailed 29-9 at the half.
The Longhorns didn’t hang their heads when they came back out to start the second half. They nearly played the Highlanders even, getting outscored by a slim 13-12 margin.
Head coach Sarah Swift Jennings saw some positives from her team.
“I was really proud of the way we played in the
first quarter,” said Jennings. “We were beating their press and getting the ball up on our end but we got a little antsy turned it over a couple of times in the second quarter and then couldn’t hit
our shots. But we handled
the pressure much better than we have in the past, but these kids are trying hard to get better. We didn’t play well on Friday, but I was pleased tonight despite the loss. Cloudland has a very good team, but we didn’t quit in the second half.”
Sierra Green scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Lady Horns. McKenzie Kelly added six points and five rebounds. Aubree Glenn’s total three points and Savanna Dowell collected two.
McKinney had a game-high 16 points for the Highlanders. Ryan Turbyfill followed with nine points, and Isabelle Christian totaled seven points and ten rebounds. Bella Clawson was able to contribute five.
The Longhorns will be back in action on Thursday
at home against Unicoi