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Longhorns advance to regionals for fourth consecutive season

By Matt Hill

EDITOR’S NOTE: The District 1-AA Third Place game between Johnson County and Happy Valley on Tuesday night finished after deadline. There will be a recap of it and the Region I-AA opening round game next week.
The JCHS Boys Basketball Team looked like it was done for following a 22-point loss to Hampton on Monday, but now the team is looking as good as it has all year.
Following a thrilling come from behind 59-55 victory over Elizabethton Friday, JCHS had conference champion Sullivan East on the ropes before falling 67-57 to the Patriots on Saturday in the District 1-AA Tournament at Daniel Boone High School.
Things have changed for JCHS. A week ago head coach Austin Atwood was saying that he thought the team had thrown in the towel. Down 44-29 in the fourth quarter against Elizabethton, they did everything but give up.
The Longhorns were ahead 25-18 at halftime, then were outscored 26-4 in the next nine minutes.
JCHS was mired in foul trouble and it looked like they were totally out of control.
Elizabethton was outmatching Johnson County’s physicality, but eventually it wore on the Cyclones.
Jason Steele changed everything for JCHS as the he scored 13 consecutive points after he had been shut down for three quarters.
At that point, the Longhorns trailed only six at 48-42.

“They’re great kids and if I had daughters they could be my son in laws,” Atwood said about his team following the Elizabethton game. “They give great effort, but they’ve been dogging it for about a week and a half and I thought they had thrown in the towel, but for them to be able to press and for us not to practice it everyday it was plain out effort and heart.”
Steele continued to play well, but Mikey Freeman also took control down low in the stretch run, dominating the boards in the fourth quarter.
Having Ryan Thomas out following his fifth foul in the fourth quarter also hurt the Cyclones.
Elizabethton’s Chantz DeMoss played tough down low, but eventually Freeman wore him down.
Two big buckets by Freeman put JCHS within one at 54-53.
“I loved this,” Freeman said. “When it gets physical it’s my time to take over. You have to stay within yourself and not push and shove. But it was nothing cheap, nothing dirty just good physical play.”
JCHS forced an Elizabethton walk and then Sammy Hampton put the Longhorns up for good with two free-throws.
The Longhorns won and pandemonium in the locker room ensued.
Freeman has a message for the doubters.
“Hey baby we’re not out until the last game,” he said.
They didn’t doubt themselves in the game and it allowed them to pull it off despite having two starters injured.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be our last game,” Freeman said. “There was no way this going to be our last game. Everybody worked as hard as they could and pulled it out.”
Atwood also liked the physical nature of his team.
“Chantz DeMoss did a great job the second time we played when they beat us and getting a lot of big rebounds and they were more physical than the we were, but tonight I thought we bumped him going across the lane and I thought we didn’t let Thomas catch it on the high post. We didn’t let Bowers get open looks. We were fortunate to win,” he said.
Steele was definitely the biggest key with his huge fourth quarter.
“He has to play four quarters and as soon as he figures out he has to play better for a whole game he will be even a better player,” Atwood said.
The fourth quarter run will always be remembered by the Longhorn faithful.
“We’ve condensed it down to four offensive sets and three defensive sets and I think they’re catching on,” Atwood said.
SCORING: Jason Steele 22, Jimmy Arnold 10, Mikey Freeman 14, Sammy Hampton 9, Carlton Tugman 2, Eric Cullop 2.
On Saturday against East, the Longhorns greatly improved on their previous two meetings with the Patriots.
Unlike the first two games that saw East win by 34 and 29, the Longhorns made the Patriots play their style of game and was able to stay in it.
The run and gun Patriots were forced to play the more physical style JCHS likes.
East held a comfortable 39-26 advantage after three, but JCHS made one more attempt at fourth quarter magic.
The Longhorns cut the Patriot lead to seven several times in the fourth quarter and though JCHS didn’t win, it gave another fine effort.
For Complete details please pick up your copy of this weeks, The Tomahawk, available at local newsstands today.