By Tim Chambers
ERWIN—All good things must come to an end and Johnson County made sure of it on Friday. The Longhorns ousted Unicoi County from the league’s unbeaten ranks with an impressive 51-46 win inside the Blue Devils’ Den.
The night belonged to Blake Atwood who fired in 27 points including several clutch ones down the stretch. Jordan Edes had a huge three-point play with 2:37 remaining in the game that put the Longhorns in front to stay at 42-40.
The Longhorns trailed throughout the third quarter but fought back to take the lead behind Zack Eller’s basket and two Nathan Arnold free throws early in the fourth period.
It was that type of blue collar effort by the Longhorns that left Head Coach Austin Atwood all smiles after the game. He saw his team weather a first half storm and come away with their biggest victory of the season.
“We did a poor job of rotating out of our traps in the first quarter and they made us pay for it,” said Atwood. “We turned around and held them to five points in the second quarter but we couldn’t knock down shots either. We made some halftime adjustments and the kids played outstanding in the second half. We took good shots and we rebounded well. We’re trying to get away from having those lulls like we did in the first half. It was a hard fought basketball game. Unicoi County is a good team that is well coached.”
The game was close in the first quarter with neither team able to gain ground. The Blue Devils held a 12-7 advantage with 1:54 remaining in the period only to see Johnson County go on a 5-0 run.
Atwood had all five points including a trey that tied the game at the one-minute mark.
The Blue Devils answered with a three-ball from Trevor Hensley and Danny Lowery’s buzzer-beating shot that gave them a 17-12 cushion after one.
Both teams shot poorly in the second quarter. The Longhorns got five points from Atwood and a deuce by Troy Arnold while the Blue Devils were held to only five.
The Horns trailed 22-19 at the half.
The lead swapped hands 14 times in the game and several of those were during the third quarter.
Johnson County opened the frame on a 10-1 run that put them in front 29-23 but the Blue Devils would answer.
Hensley got loose for a trey, then converted a three-point play the old fashioned way to tie the game at 31 all.
The Blue Devils had engineered a 12-2 run that put them in front 35-31 but Johnson County eased the pain with a late bucket from Eller.
The Horns trailed 35-33 going into the final frame. That’s when they stepped up the defense.
They allowed Hensley to catch the ball in the backcourt where they double-teamed him but denied him the basketball past the half court line.
Timely baskets by the Longhorns and not allowing second shots would go in their favor over the final five minutes.
“If you allow Hensley to get a running start at you then he’s hard to defend,” said Atwood. “We tried to force someone else to beat us because he’s a money player that can hit the big shots.”
Atwood not only hit for 27 points but he was money in the bank when Unicoi had to foul at the end.
“We were getting good looks early in the game but weren’t hitting our shots,” said Blake Atwood. “I felt like I could get to the basket and it helped to open up some lanes by making a few threes. We gave up a lot of layups out of our trap in the first half but we played straight up man in the second. We did double on Hensley some in the final quarter. We didn’t want to let this game slip away like we did against them at Johnson County. We felt like we should have won that one. We all played hard and didn’t give up. This is our biggest win so far.”
Icenhour scored nine points including 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in the final 1:41.
Edes led the rebounding with eight while Nathan Arnold collected six.
Hensley was the only Blue Devil in double figures with 12.
The Longhorns could move up the ladder with a pair of wins this week. They host Sullivan Central at home on Tuesday before traveling to Happy Valley on Friday.
The Longhorns are now 14-6 overall and 4-3 in conference play. They are currently in third place trailing Unicoi County (8-1) and Sullivan East (5-2).
Johnson Co. 51
Unicoi County 32
Gavin Reece scored 14 points and Michael Oxendine added 10 in Johnson County’s junior varsity win over Unicoi County. Will Henson hit three treys for nine points. Darren Cunningham and Lucas Philips scored eight and seven points respectively. Dylan Simcox closed out the scoring with three points.
Johnson County 51, Unicoi County 46
JOHNSON CO. (51)
Atwood 27, Icenhour 9, N. Arnold 4, Edes 3, Eller 2, T. Arnold 4, Phillips 2, Reece 0.
UNICOI CO. (46)
Hensley 12, Thompson 9, Lingerfelt 8, Podvin 7, Lowery 8, Strother 2,
Johnson Co. 12 7 14 18 — 51
Unicoi Co. 17 5 13 11 — 46
3-point goals—JC 4 (Atwood 4) UC 4 (Thompson 3, Hensley 1)