Taking on their rivals in a nerve-rending close Homecoming game, the Johnson County Longhorns met the Hampton Bulldogs in an emotionally charged atmosphere that had fans on both sides cheering as loud as they could. Lagging behind in the first quarter, the Longhorns began to pull their game together in the second and held on to the lead with everything they had. The final outcome was up in the air to the very last second, but when the dust settled the Longhorns had prevailed 44-41.
Coach Austin Atwood knew exactly what his team was facing going up against the Bulldogs. When you play Hampton you know it. Even if theyre the worst theyve ever been and youre the best youve ever been, when you play Hampton its always a close game. Its a big rivalry even though its not a conference game.
The first quarter started off against the Longhorns with the Bulldogs putting seven up on the board in the first four minutes. Johnson County managed an early two-point pick up from Carlton Tugman along with a free throw by Dusty Stout to give the Longhorns three. Another layup, this time from Ryan Mahala, and a big three-pointer by Chase Phillips gave the Longhorns a one-point lead, but a drive by Hampton ended the period in their favor 8-11.
We kind of stalled it early, said Atwood. Ned is one of the better coaches in East Tennessee and his kids are going to attack the boards. We knew we had to block them out. We knew we had to get physical early in the game. Fortunately Johnson County began to get around Hamptons defense and had won back the lead in the first two minutes thanks to a chain of foul shots by Brian Dempsey, Carlton Tugman, and Dusty Stout.
The Bulldogs managed one more layup midway through the quarter giving them 13 but were unable to gain any further ground until a last second shot. Several strong plays and a lot of Hampton foul trouble left Johnson County in good shape going into the halftime homecoming activities, ending nine points ahead at 24-15.
Coming back strong from the half, the Bulldogs went into a run that put them six points closer to the lead while Johnson County was stuck at 24 on the board. Thankfully the Longhorns got back to scoring again, starting with a bucket from Tugman followed by another by Dempsey. A three-pointer by Dalton Timbs with less than a minute on the clock ended the third quarter with Johnson County back in firm control with a 10-point lead.
For Timbs, who is on both Varsity and Junior Varsity teams, this was a very high profile game to be involved in. We were getting tired. A lot of the guys out there had already played JV, but it felt great to beat Hampton. Im not usually in the really close games so I was excited, and of course I was happy with making the three.
The fourth quarter proved to be the toughest of the night for the Longhorns, holding on as the Bulldogs went into a final push that nearly earned them the game. Maintaining their lead for the first few minutes of the period, the Longhorns began to show some signs of strain as the clock wore down, allowing the Bulldogs to make up some of the deficit. With two minutes left Hampton was behind by six. A bucket and a foul shot in the next minute brought them within three, and it seemed as though a final victory might slip between the Longhorns fingers.
The clock became Johnson Countys saving grace as the Bulldogs became more desperate and gave away some game changing fouls. With only eleven seconds on the clock Dusty Stout made two final free throws putting the score to 44-41. Gaining possession, Hampton tried to use every available second to make the three-point shot that would give them overtime, but simply were not able to get into the position they needed to pull it off, going home with a very close loss.
With a game that could have very easily gone the other way, Coach Atwood seemed relieved with the nights results. Were just trying to get all our guys the best they can be and now weve had two close games, first with Happy Valley at home and now with Hampton at home on back-to-back nights. Were just focusing game to game and trying to get better.
Final Scores: Johnson County 44, Hampton 41
Brian Dempsey 16
Dusty Stout 10
Carlton Tugman 6
Dalton Timbs 5
Chase Phillips 3
Chase Kleine 2
Ryan Mahala 2