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Longhorns beat Cloudland in overtime nail-biter

For the third time this season Johnson County’s boys basketball team pulled out a win over the Cloudland Highlanders, but this time it was just by the skin of their teeth. Having played a somewhat sloppy first half on both sides, the match up became a neck and neck race to keep the lead, ultimately coming down to an extremely tense last second draw that sent the game into overtime. Even then, a clear winner couldn’t be determined until the very last play of the extra four minutes, when Junior Chase Phillips took charge and managed to save the day with a final buzzer buster that left Johnson County the victory by a single point. “With the way we won, we could have quit 20 times,” admitted Head Coach Austin Atwood. “Our guys could have seen how Brian Dempsey wasn’t having the best game in the world and could have quit, but even he didn’t quit. He came back and made us two huge plays. That’s about the second or third game we’ve had like that, and we’ve gotten beat once like that when South got us in that close one. But, besides South, we’ve won two or three really close games and that says a lot about this team.”
Despite the final outcome, the Highlanders were actually in the driver’s seat most of the game. The whole first quarter was a race to keep up, eventually ending in an 18-18 tie. As Atwood pointed out, even key players like Dalton Timbs and Brian Dempsey had trouble offensively, making the Longhorns landslide victory over the Highlanders at John Battle a few weeks ago seem like a distant memory. Cloudland didn’t have much luck landing their buckets either, leaving the whole second quarter with a lot of back and forth action but very little success. In fact, neither team had any luck making their shots fall until the fourth, with Johnson County gaining just eight points and Cloudland 10 through the entire third period. Yet, what had been a largely uneventful and often times lack luster fight ramped up tremendously at the very end. Johnson County came into the fourth trailing 28-33. The Highlanders quickly put up a couple of baskets to give themselves the biggest lead of the night 28-37, but with Timbs and Phillips both working hard to cut the deficit back, the score had soon settled at a more manageable 34-39. Both Phillips and Dempsey brought in layups to reel the lead in further at just one point, 38-39. However, Cloudland was quick to get back on the offensive again, putting up some more space as they climbed into the low 40s. By that point the clock was ticking down with less than two minutes officially in the game. Phillips nailed a basket to even the score again 42-42, but with a foul against them, Johnson County watched as the Highlanders went up 42-44. Dempsey fired back with two free throws of his own, and with less than a minute on the clock, fans were looking at another tie at 44. With Cloudland in control of the ball and only ten seconds left, it looked as though the game would come down to a final play on the part of the Highlanders. Yet, the Johnson County defense wasn’t quite ready to call it a night, and with Chase Phillips on their side the possibility of a critical steal can never be ruled out no matter how late in the game. “I was making those big shots earlier and honestly all I was thinking was I’ve got to get it back somehow to make another big shot,” Phillips said. “I was getting pretty tired, and I talked to the coach and took a few defensive plays off to try to catch my breath, but then I realized I had to try to get us a few steals, get the team going, and get everybody back on the scoreboard again.” Phillips hoped to follow up that huge turnover with the game winning score, but even though the execution was good and the ball made it to the basket, it failed to go in. Even so, that last Johnson County play ate up enough time, making it so that even the last four seconds was not enough for Cloudland to get the final bucket they needed for a win. With both teams still firmly at 44, the game went into overtime. The intensity of the last minute of the regular game carried over all the way through the next four minutes. Neither team made much of an advance through the first three minutes, instead trying to keep it out of play for a last critical move. When the Longhorns did decide to strike, Phillips managed to land a basket but to no avail thanks to a debatable call as an offensive foul.
Taking possession, the Highlanders acted fast to gain the lead 46-44, and with an additional foul reached 48. With just 27 seconds left things did not look well for Johnson County, until a couple of huge rebounds from Brian Dempsey resulted in back to back buckets that left the Longhorns trailing by just one point at 50-51. With only 11 seconds on the clock and Cloudland in possession, Johnson County took a critical time out. Fate seemed to be on the Longhorn’s side and almost as soon as the game resumed the Highlanders made a final essential error, receiving a call for traveling. Knowing that it was their last shot at a victory, Phillips took the lead on Johnson County’s final play. Every second seemed to stretch as the ball made its way down the court and finally through the rim to give the Longhorns the win they were hoping for. For Phillips, who made the game winning shot, the victory was more a sense of relief than anything else. “It had everybody going,” Phillips said, “but when I got that last one there at the end I was just trying to stick it in the rim and get it out of my hands as fast as I could before the buzzer rang. It’s tough, especially in this small gym where everybody is on top of you constantly. It’s not like the bigger gyms where you’ve got more space to cut. You’ve got to be smart with your passing. That team is a good team and they know how to play on their home court.”
Final Score: Johnson County 52, Cloudland 51
Chase Phillips 24
Brian Dempsey 15
J.R. Speed 7
Dalton Timbs 4
Cody Bailie 2