By Tim Chambers
KINGSPORT—Johnson County’s “Smokey the Bear” type defense was able to put out the fire over the final three quarters after Sullivan South came out sizzling in the opening period. The Longhorns outscored South 50-22 over the final three frames and walked away with an impressive 59-40 win on Thursday night inside the Rebels Gym.
South’s high-powered offense had scored 73 and 74 points over the past two games and appeared headed toward another 70 plus output. They surged out to a 16-4 advantage and led 18-9 after one.
Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood said he challenged his team at that point and they responded in a big way to his plea. By doing so, they earned a three-place finish in the Three Rivers Conference and a No. 3 seed in the District Tournament. They will play No. 6 seed Sullivan Central on Friday night at Elizabethton High School.
“We didn’t defend well at all in the first quarter,” said Johnson County’s head coach Austin Atwood. “We allowed them to drive in the paint and South did a great job of kicking it out. We went to our zone to stop their dribble drive penetration and were able to weather the storm. I thought we played pretty dang well over the final three quarters. This was a win that we had to have.”
Longhorns find their groove after the first quarter:
Johnson County’s first-quarter misfortunes would suddenly take a 180 turn over the final three periods.
They opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run and took the lead on Zack Eller’s basket with 4:13 remaining in the period at 19-18.
The score was tied 22 all when Johnson County went on a 7-0 run to close the half getting a three-ball from Blake Atwood and a pair of deuces by Jordan Edes.
The Longhorns led 29-22 at intermission.
The third and fourth quarters were carbon copies, and both of them favored Johnson County. They outscored the Rebels 15-9 in both frames as South had trouble converting shots over their 3-2 zone.
Atwood poured in a baker’s dozen in each of the two halves and finished with a game-high 26 points. Atwood also totaled six assists, three steals, and three rebounds.
Player comments and statistical leaders:
“They were guarding Bud and Zack tight out front, so the lane was open especially on fast breaks,” said Blake. “Edes was open quite down low, and we were able to dish it to him. He did a great job finishing.”
Ironically his dad, the head coach was not happy about the way he started the game.
“I was very upset with his play those first four minutes of the game,” said Atwood. “Blake is our floor leader, and he has to play well. It’s like having a coach on the floor. He knows when to attack and when to pull it out. He’s still got a lot to work on and needs to get better, but I thought he played pretty well for three and half quarters.”
So did senior Jordan Edes who finished with 15 points and took a couple of key charges that frustrated the Rebels from driving wide open down the lanes.
“I try and do whatever is needed to get our team fired up,” said Edes. “I got a lot of great looks inside, and our guards did a great job of getting me the ball when I was open. I thought we also got after them defensively.”
Sophomore Lucas Phillips played big off the bench scoring nine points. Zack Eller contributed five points and was a menace on defense with three steals. Nathan Arnold gave a blue-collar performance, four points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Luke Pollack led the Rebels with 11 points. Devonte Mitchell added nine points and seven rebounds. Ethan Ward tallied seven points and dished out five assists.
South outrebounded the Longhorns 23-16 but also led the turnover department 16-8.
Johnson County 59, Sullivan South 40
JOHNSON CO. (59)
Atwood 26, Edes 15, Phillips 9, Eller 5, N. Arnold 4, Icenhour 0, T. Arnold 0, Reece 0
Sullivan South (40)
Pollack 11, Ward 7, Mitchell 7, Parker 6, Lane 6, Chase 2,
Johnson County 9 20 15 15 — 59
Sullivan South 18 4 9 9 — 40
3-point goals—JC 5 (Atwood 2, Phillips 2, Eller 1) SS 6 (Pollack 3, Parker 2, Ward 1).