Longhorns’ Lucas Phillips (12) hits a shot as Cloudland’s Conner Birchfield (2 )defends. Phillips tallied 9 points in their 69-63 win. Photo By Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

ROAN MTN.—Many teams have gone into Sonny Smith Gymnasium and not came away with a win. Johnson County didn’t want to be one of them.
The Highlanders put up a good fight, but the Horns held on for a 69-63 win on Tuesday.
It was a tough battle according to head coach Austin Atwood.
“You have to credit Cloudland and Coach Gary Harrison,” for the way his kids battled,” said Atwood. “We played hard, but they did too. I’ve brought some good team in here over the years and not been able to win. We played hard, so we’re happy to leave here with a victory.”
The Highlanders held a slim 16-15 lead after one but would increase their lead in the second quarter.
Blake Atwood scored a dozen points in the frame after hitting for a half dozen in the first quarter. He converted a three-point play late in the quarter after starting the frame with a three-ball. Lucas Phillips helped the cause by draining a trifecta at the buzzer.
Johnson County held a 36-31 halftime advantage.
Defensive-minded Horns steal the momentum
It was the Longhorns’ defense that turned the tables in the third quarter. They held Cloudland to six points in the frame and only two field goals.
The Landers were able to grab the momentum thanks to another strong quarter from Atwood. He lit it up for 14 points in the frame but didn’t score in the fourth quarter.
The Horns held a commanding 54-37 going into the final stanza, but Cloudland wouldn’t go away.
The Highlanders carved into the deficit and got it down to eight but a three-ball by Zack Eller extended the lead back to double digits.
The Horns got sloppy with the basketball over the final three minutes, and Atwood fouled out that added to their woes.
Eller and Troy Arnold hit their free throws down the stretch to prevent any chance of a Highlanders’ upset.
The final score was the closest they got.

Atwood and Eller lead the way
Atwood fired in 32 points to lead the Longhorns while Eller added 15 points. Arnold was the third Longhorn in double figures with ten while Lucas Phillips just missed the mark with nine.
Robert Leeper had a big game for the Highlanders with 20 points while Hunter Shell cashed in with 11 that including three treys. Josh Blair and Dillon Johnson provided nine and eight points respectively.
The Horns are now 19-4 on the season and were set to try and make it 20 on
Friday verses Unicoi County at home.

JOHNSON CO. (69)
Atwood 32, Eller 15, Arnold 10, Phillips 9, Reece 3, Oxentine 0, Cross 0, Cunningham 0.

CLOUDLAND (63)
Leeper 20, Shell 11, Blair 9, Johnson 8, Birchfield 7, Lacey 5, Coffey 2