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JCHS boys end 15-year drought in tournaments at John Battle

Bill Clinton was in his first term as U.S. President, the Internet was still in its infancy, this sportswriter was still in high school and JCHS won a basketball tournament.
The year was 1995 and the Longhorns were District Tournament champions.
Until Saturday night, the Longhorns had not won one tournament since until a group of determined individuals went to Bristol, Va. and won one on John Battle’s home court.
The Longhorns took home a tournament title for the first time in almost 16 years following a 61-39 victory over the Trojans in the championship game of the John Battle Tip-Off Classic.
The win was a special one for the Longhorns, who have let it be known they are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
JCHS does have a few District final appearances since 1995 and even a Region final berth in 2003, but in-season tournaments have not been kind to the Longhorns.
JCHS has been in the championship game of the John Battle Classic twice, but had never won it.
Things changed on Saturday and the Longhorns played quite possibly their best basketball of the season.
“It’s good to get the monkey off our back,” JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. “We tried not to make a big deal about it, but it’s nice to know we can close out a championship game.”
The fact the Longhorns won by 22 points in a hostile environment was a feat in itself.
The Longhorns won 63-55 over Mountain Mission, Va. Friday, but struggled to do it.
Jason Steele led the Longhorns on Saturday and showed why he is one of the premier players in Northeast Tennessee.
Steele finished with a double-double as he had 26 points and 11 rebounds.
The Longhorns played with a tremendous energy and was able to pull out a huge win.
“Knowing that we won a championship game on someone’s gym floor shows we did something pretty good,” Atwood said.
Atwood was real pleased with how Steele dominated the game and how is becoming a huge force for the Longhorns.
“Jason played well,” he said. “He didn’t Friday night, but tonight he did a good job. They let us play on both ends and for him to still be able to get 26 points with people hanging on him says a lot.”
Unlike Friday night, the Longhorns didn’t let Battle get back into the game and kept the pressure coming.
JCHS led by 15 points at halftime and it never looked back.
“This team played much better tonight,” Atwood said. “We defended very well. We didn’t rebound well early, but we controlled the boards in the second half.”
The Longhorns have been regulars in the John Battle Classic, but most of their experiences have been nightmarish.
JCHS has really struggled in this tournament, even with some very good teams.
Now, the Longhorns have a trophy to put in their case.
“One reason we’ve struggled is we haven’t had a true point guard since Austin Paisley, but Cody Brown has made a difference. This group is focused on what we have to do to get ready for the conference season,” Atwood said.
JCHS Scoring: Jason Steele 26 (11 rebounds), Sammy Hampton 8, Chase Kleine 2, Cody Brown 12 (9 assists), Dusty Stout 5, Jason Dugger 4, Austin Humphrey 6

Friday’s Game
JCHS 63
Mountain Mission 55
Scoring: Sammy Hampton 15, Andy Stout 2, Jason Steele 16, Chase Kleine 1, Cody Brown 17, Dusty Stout 3, Quinton Wright 2, Austin Humphrey 6.

Wednesday’s Game
John Battle Tournament opening round
JCHS 77
Holston 38
The Cavaliers showed they had improved a lot since the preseason Hall of Fame Tournament in Mountain City last month, but the Longhorns played even better than they did in the two schools first meeting.
The Longhorns shot tremendously well and the fast break was just too much for the Cavaliers.
JCHS led only 11-10 at one point, then went on a 47-11 spurt.
The Longhorns had a balanced scoring effort with Jason Steele scoring 13, Dusty Stout tallying 12, Andy Stout coming through with 11, Chase Kleine had nine, Sammy Hampton had seven, Austin Humphrey had six, Jason Dugger had four and Skylar Reece had two.
JCHS had one of its best offensive outputs in a long time and the Longhorns played solid defense after the first few minutes.
A bright spot for Holston was Tyler Smith, who drained a near halfcourt shot at the end of the third quarter for three of of his 18 points.
Cody Hawkins added nine for the Cavaliers.

The Longhorns game with Cloudland has been moved to Thursday. JCHS travels to Sullivan East Friday and hosts Unaka next Tuesday.