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Longhorns cage Cougars

JC’s Zach Eller (5) battles Central’s Ben Williams (14) for a rebound in the second quarter. Eller played a strong defensive game in their 64-44 win.
Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

Johnson County dazzled a capacity crowd with a second-half surge like none other on homecoming night inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium.
The Longhorns outscored Sullivan Central 39-19 in the second half to walk away with a convincing 64-44 win on Friday.
The Cougars came into the game undefeated in league play but are now tied for second place with the Horns.
Their biggest Achilles was trying to stop senior guard Blake Atwood who fired in 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Head coach Austin Atwood was proud of his senior leader and commended his supporting cast as well.
“I was pleased with the way Blake attacked the rim and rebounded,” said Atwood. “When two people went after the ball, and he was one of them he got it. He’s got to play aggressive like that.”
Atwood did stop handing out the praise there. He made sure to include his other three senior leaders.
“Zach Eller and Gavin Reece played like bulldogs tonight. They played lights out and harassed their guards the whole game on defense. Gavin hit three big treys, and I can’t say enough about the way that Troy Arnold played. He gets less recognition than anyone and probably does more work than anybody we got. He’s undersized but battles his tail off against players 6’4 and 6’5. Those three stepped up and played their tails off .”
Atwood dominates the first quarter
The Horns got off to a good start thanks to 12 first-quarter points by Atwood and led 14-8 after one. But the Cougars battled back to tie the game in the second quarter.
Caleb Rose drained a three-ball to knot the game at 16-16 all capping off an 8-2 Cougars’ run to start the period. Jackson Harrison came off the bench to score a pair of buckets as Central managed to stay even.
The Cougars’ defense limited Atwood to a single field goal in the second quarter, but Gavin Reece picked up the slack. He knocked down a pair of treys including one that gave them a 24-21 advantage with 2:10 remaining in the half.
Central slowed the game to a snail’s pace in the final two minutes and went into the half tied at 25 all. That was quickly erased thanks to some halftime adjustments that enabled the Horns to solve the Cougars’ zone defense.
Second half surge by the Longhorns
The Horns came out sizzling to start the third stanza getting two quick baskets by Troy Arnold and a pair of treys by Zach Eller and Atwood. Reece continued his torrid shooting by knocking down his third trey along with a deuce.
“We hadn’t played in about two weeks, so we started off slow,” said Blake Atwood. “We finally got them out of the zone, and they went box and man in the third. Gavin and Troy were knocking down shots, and Zach was getting us the ball and playing great defense. I felt like everyone contributed in the win. They have a very good team.”
The Horns outscored the Cougars 18-10 in the frame and led 43-35 going into the fourth quarter. It only got worse in the fourth.
Rose got the Cougars within five by sinking a trey, but the Horns would go for the jugular.
Atwood blazed the nets for a baker’s dozen in the quarter including six in a row at the midway mark that extended their advantage to 56-42 with 3:59 remaining.
Everything was clicking for the Horns who closed the game with baskets from Clayton Cross and Big Luke Rash. The result was a lopsided victory.
Longhorn leaders
Atwood shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line en route to team-high in points and rebounds. Arnold filled the stat sheet with 11 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Reece also provided 11 points and three assists. Eller came away with three steals and five boards.
“We played hard on the defensive end, and that’s where it started,” said Arnold. “We rebounded well and got it out on the break in transition. They didn’t get many second-chance points because we were focused on keeping them off the board. It definitely was a game we had to have.”
Rose and Trey Rosenbalm had 15 and 10 points respectively to lead the Cougars. Ben Williams added eight to the total.
The Longhorns are now 12-5 overall and 2-1 in league play and will play at Sullivan East on Friday and
then at home against
Mitchell County on Saturday. They also had a conference game at Happy Valley on Tuesday.
See next week’s Tomahawk for all this week’s game stories.

Sullivan Ctrl 8 17 10 9 -44
Johnson Co. 14 11 18 21 -64

3-point goals—SC 4 (Rose 2 Williams, Duncan) JC 6 (Reece 3, Atwood 2, Eller).

Rose 15, Rosenbalm 10, Williams 8, Harrison 4, Duncan 3, Crabtree 2, Barb 2, Dugger 0.

Atwood 33, Reece 11, Arnold 11, Eller 3, Oxentine 2, Rash 2, Cross 2, Winters 0, Parsons 0, Neely 0, Bower 0.