By Tim Chambers
ERWIN—Johnson County found out that chasing Unicoi County’s early lead was like Wile E Coyote trying to chase down the Roadrunner. At times they got close, but never close enough to overtake it.
Unicoi County (17-13) ended the Longhorns’ season with a 67-54 win on the Devils home court in the District 1-AA tournament played on Friday.
The Longhorns finished the year with an 11-16 mark.
The Blue Devils scored the first five points of the game and led 18-15 after one. Johnson County tied the game in the second quarter at 23-all but never could surge in front.
They trailed 35-27 at the half.
“We never could get the stops when we needed them,” said Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood. “We were never out of the game but we couldn’t pull ahead either. We had chances to take the lead in the second quarter but turned it over. Give them credit because they kept knocking down shots. They’re very tough to beat playing at home.”
Not only did the missed shots hurt but turnovers too. The Longhorns had three straight with the game tied at 23 all. The Blue Devils converted off all three miscues.
“That was a critical moment in the game,” added Atwood. “It might have forced them to play a little different had we scored off a couple of those. That was a momentum changer for them.”
The Longhorns rode the first-half play of Bud Icenhour in this one.
He hit four of his game high seven treys in the first half, two in each quarter. The rest of the team could muster only 14 points.
That wasn’t the case for Unicoi County who gathered several contributions up and down its lineup.
Dylan Putman tied Icenhour for game high honors with 18. He scored 14 in the first half that sparked the Blue Devils’ offense.
“To reach our goal we had to win,” said Putman. “We want to win the whole thing on Tuesday.”
Johnson County stayed close behind seven points from Jordan Edes in the third quarter but still trailed 49-39. And they cut that in half to start the fourth.
Icenhour’s long trey and a basket by Edes trimmed the deficit to 49-44 with six minutes remaining. Hensley and Simpson stopped the run with back-to-back deuces that pushed the advantage back to nine.
Hensley was a thorn in Johnson County’s side for the entire game. He finished the night with 15, points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
Troy Podvin added 14 points and eight rebounds. Clay Simpson chipped in with eight points, four rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
The Blue Devils out-rebounded Johnson County 28-16.
Austin Houser had nine in his last game as a Longhorn.
“Austin was at a size advantage but he played hard and rebounded well,” added Atwood. “He’s meant a lot to our program. He gave us some excellent play tonight.”
Icenhour finished with 18 points, hitting six treys. Edes added 14 points, four rebounds and two steals. Atwood accounted for six points, six assists and two steals.
There is a silver lining at the end of the rainbow for the Longhorns. All five starters will return next season in addition to its top reserves.
Johnson County is expected to be tabbed as the frontrunner for the 2017-18 season.