By Tim Chambers
Johnson County and Hampton wrestled back and forth for three quarters until the Longhorns delivered the powerbomb in the final period for the decisive blow. The Horns outscored the Dogs 17-6 in that span and reeled off a 10-0 run to tap out with a 59-46 win before a capacity crowd inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium.
The Horns held a slim 42-40 advantage going into the fourth quarter but pushed it to 10 after starting the frame on an 8-0 run. Hampton got within five over a minute span, but a steal and layup by Zach Eller and Troy Arnold’s baby hook would end any thoughts of a Hampton victory.
Head coach Austin Atwood praised his team’s play but agreed the win didn’t come easy.
“It’s seemed like they were getting every bounce and all the 50-50 balls in the first half,” said Atwood. “It wasn’t due to our lack of hustle but them being in the right position. Troy (Arnold) and Blake (Atwood) rebounded well over the last three minutes; the best Blake has rebounded all year. He has to rebound on the defensive end, and that’s the one thing he needs to improve on because our team counts on him. Zack and Gavin did a good job on the defensive end pressuring their guards, and Michael Oxentine ran the floor well. We’ve got some things we have to improve on during the Christmas break but beating Abingdon and Hampton on back-to-back nights was huge for our basketball team.”
The Longhorns built a 13-7 first quarter lead thanks to nine points from Atwood, but Hampton got a Jordan Bentley three-ball to close the quarter.
The Longhorns were able to stretch the lead to seven thanks to baskets from Zack Eller and Atwood, but Hampton came storming back. Mitchell Tolley’s three got them within one at 23-22 after Conner Jones had knocked one down on their previous possession.
Hampton stayed in the hunt led by the play of Jonah Jones who tallied six points off the bench and eight more by Bentley.
The Longhorns led 27-23 at the break with Atwood collecting 17 of them.
The Bulldogs stayed close in the third and got within four, but Eller sank a trey that got it back to seven. A nice feed from Gavin Reece to Arnold resulted in a late basket giving the Horns a 42-37 advantage.
Jonah Jones cut the deficit to a basket at 42-40 after knocking down a trey off the wing.
It was all Longhorns over the final eight minutes.
Eller got things started with a nice fed to Arnold for a basket the drilled later drained a trey to push the lead at 10. Arnold would connect for six points in the quarter while Atwood was money on the line going 4-of-4.
A pair of free throws by Reece would end the contest and leave the Horns with an overall 11-4-mark heading into Christmas.
“We starting boxing out better and getting some of those 50-50 balls,” said Eller. “We were focused on rebounding and getting steals in the second half. Coach Atwood challenged us at halftime to do a better job. Getting a win over Hampton is always tough.”
Atwood finished the night with a game-high 26 points and ten rebounds.
He felt like rebounding was the key to their win.
“We finally started getting some defensive rebounds, and that allowed us to push it up the floor without them getting set up,” said Blake. “It made it a lot easier for us to get to the rim. I also think their depth and us playing last night hurt some too. We were finally able to get out legs back in the fourth quarter, and that really helped us down the stretch.”
Eller added 15 points and four steals. Arnold rang up 12 points five steals and six boards. Reece contributed five rebounds and three assists.
“We had tough mindset coming into this game,” said Arnold. “We have a lot of respect for Hampton because we know they’ll always play us well. I felt like we reestablished ourselves in the fourth quarter. We hustled and
made some plays.”
Bentley had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Dogs. Rocky Croy also added 12 points along with Jonah Jones who provided 10 points and five rebounds off the bench for Hampton.
The Longhorns will host Sullivan Central at home on January 4 in their next contest.
Hampton 10 13 17 6 –46
JCHS 13 14 15 17 –59
3-point goals—Hampton 4 (J. Jones, Tolley, C. Jones) JC 1 (Eller)
Bentley 11, Croy 12, J. Jones 10, Tolley 4, Oaks 4, Vines 2, C. Jones 3, Hill 0.
JOHNSON CO. (59)
Atwood 26, Eller 15, Arnold 12, Reece 2, Oxentine 4, Phillips 0, Cunningham 0