By Tim Chambers
Unaka’s state championship banner that was won in 2004 still hangs on the wall inside the school’s gymnasium but the style of basketball played back then is now a distant memory. The Rangers couldn’t hang with Johnson County resulting in a 59-29 lopsided win for the Longhorns on Tuesday.
Unaka’s head coach Aaron Dugger was a member of the 2002 team that advanced to the state tournament but lost in the first round. The Rangers also went in 2005, giving them three trips to Murfreesboro in four years.
“This has always been a tough place to play especially back then,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “They’re down a bit right now but that won’t last long. Aaron (Dugger) gets the most out of his kids and they definitely play hard. He’s got a young team but some good underclassmen. We have a lot of seniors and it shows. I thought they defended well and slowed the game down on us early. We finally started playing at a pace to our liking.”
The game was of the slower variety throughout the first half.
The Rangers took their last lead of the game at 7-5 on Tyler Burke’s three, only to see a three-ball by Sean Lewis trigger a 9-0 run to close the quarter.
The Longhorns led 14-7 after one.
Double the fun
They continued that same process in the second quarter and would double Unaka’s point output to go up by 14.
Bud Icenhour had a pair of treys and Blake Atwood accounted for a half dozen points.
Johnson County enjoyed a 28-14 halftime advantage and it grew larger to start the third.
Lewis drained a pair of treys to up the ante at 20. A three-ball from Atwood and a couple more of the trifecta variety by Icenhour and Gavin Reece would end the quarter with Johnson County leading 49-18.
Reserves played all of the fourth quarter and most of the second half.
Freshman Clayton Cross converted a three-point play in his varsity game. Lucas Phillips added a half dozen points.
Atwood finished with 10 points and was 6-of-6 from the foul line in limited play. Lewis led the Horns with 15 points including three treys. Icenhour knocked down three treys to gather 11 points. Jordan Edes-King provided seven points and five rebounds. Phillips finished with six and Reece collected five.
Burke finished with seven points and seven rebounds for Unaka.
Big Luke Rash brought Longhorn fans to their feet by blocking a couple of shots late in the game.
“We got to play everybody and that’s always good,” added Atwood. “It gets much tougher from here on out.”
Johnson County 59, Unaka 29
Johnson Co. (59)
Lewis 15, Icenhour 11, Atwood 10, Edes 7, T. Arnold 0, Phillips 6, Reece 5, Eller 2, Cross 3
Johnson 6, Hill 4, King 4, Sexton 2, Wright 3, Houghton 2, King 1, Ensor 4, Burke 3.
Johnson Co. 14 14 21 10 — 59
Unaka 7 7 4 11 — 29
3-point goals—JC 8 (Icenhour 3, Lewis 3, Reece, Phillips) Unaka (Johnson 2, Wright, Burke)