By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Nearly 40 years have passed since Johnson County pulled off the big shocker in high school basketball. Up until 1978-79, the Longhorns had only experienced three winning seasons in school history, and two of those came during the 30’s.
The 1974-75 team because the first one in nearly four decades to finish above the .500 mark. They finished second in the District, losing to Hampton in a close contest at Elizabethton High School but the magical season came four years later.
Johnson County was cruising around the .500-mark during the 78-79 basketball campaign at 11-12. They entered the District tournament as the third seed behind Happy Valley and West Greene.
A capacity crowd filled the gym at Chuckey-Doak High School to watch Johnson County take on West Greene’s best team ever.
The Buffaloes came into the game with a pair of regular season wins over Johnson County but would not find the third time to be a charm.
They Longhorns would scratch and claw their way to a 56-51 victory. Danny Hensley hit eight free throws in the final 45 seconds that helped Johnson County hold off the Buffaloes. Then lady luck struck twice.
Fourth seed South Greene putting them in the championship game against the Longhorns upset top seed Happy Valley.
It was nearly a carbon copy of the night before as Tim Lipford scored eight fourth-quarter points including four in the final .15 seconds to help Johnson County win the championship game 52-50.
Hensley was named the tournament’s MVP. Lipford was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Terry Lewis and Dennis Greene.
The Longhorns suffered a heartbreaker 58-54 loss to Church Hill in the first round of the regional.
It might not seem like much too some school, but this was a historic season for the Longhorns. It’s your first District title ever by an overachieving team that finished the year 14-13.
A trophy sits inside the school’s trophy case as a reminder, but the team has never had a banner raised in Ray Shoun Gymnasium that serves as a reminder of their achievement.
“We do have a trophy in the trophy case to prove it,” said District MVP Danny Hensley. “But we’ve never had a banner put in the gym or been recognized as the first team ever to win a District tournament at JCHS.”
Hensley said that seeing a banner put up after 40 years would be something special.
“I know how proud that it would make me feel and I believe the rest or our team would feel the same way,” added Hensley. “I’ve been disappointed over the years seeing all those banners hanging in the gym and nothing there to honor our team as the first District championship team ever. I’ve mentioned it before but never ever got done.”
Team members other than Hensley included; Steve Matherly, David Potter, Joe Lunceford, Rick Reece, David Stanley, Malcolm Perdue, Lynn Danner, Brian Farthing, Sam Adams, Jay Humphey, Tim Lipford, Terry Lewis and Dennis Greene. Glen Estep served as head coach.
Basketball season is several months away but what would be more fitting that to see a banner raised on the first night to honor Johnson County’s first ever District Champs.
To quote Larry they cable guy “let’s get ‘er done.”
Hensley and his teammates deserve it.