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It was another classic in one of the Northeast Tennessee’s best rivalries.
JCHS showed that this season has a lot of potential, but in the end Hampton was just too strong in a 63-56 Bulldog win at Shoun Gym.
The game featured two of the regions best players and they didn’t disappoint.
Jason Steele finished with 23 points for JCHS while friend and counterpart Nathaniel Hughes finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds.
The Longhorns rallied from a nine-point second quarter deficit to tie the game at 41-41 before Hughes absolutely exploded.
Hughes took over the game in the fourth quarter with his scoring and on the glass and the Longhorns couldn’t recover.
JCHS had a chance in the final moments, but just couldn’t overtake the Bulldogs.
It was probably a closer than expected game for Hampton, but it’s obvious the Bulldogs have a very special unit in 2010 and one that could go a long way.
“This night means a lot to us because this is our senior year and we have a lot of veterans on our team,” Hughes said. “Kids from Little Milligan either choose Hampton or Johnson County. It’s a big rivalry. Everybody knows everybody and that’s what makes it fun.”
Steele had a big night as well for JCHS as he is averaging 20 points a game counting the two exhibitions last week.
Hughes looked forward to the challenge of playing someone of the caliber of Steele. Hughes says the two have a very close personal friendship.
“I enjoy taking it to Steele just like he enjoys taking it to me,” he said. “We’ve played ball together and he’s a great player. He’s one of the best in this area at his position and when I score on him I like to bother him about it after the game, but I’ll give him a few days to rest on that. They’ve got a great team and when takes it to me he’s going to rub it in my face too. We’re really good friends.”
The Longhorns fought all night long and after trailing 18-11, really played well throughout.
JCHS continued to get strong point guard play from Cody Brown and the Longhorns battled.
The ‘Horns received an outstanding performance from Sammy Hampton and a solid shooting night from Quinton Wright.
Sammy Hampton finished with 13 and Quinton Wright had eight.
Brown finished with nine and Austin Humphrey tallied three.
“This is not a moral victory,” JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. “We’ve got to win these games. I’m pleased with this team. Everything we need to fix is fixable. Some of the guys who aren’t doing what we thought they would by now will be. We need to get better on defense.”
Hughes was the star of the night and Atwood knows his team had no answer for him.
“We made mistakes because we tired,” Atwood said. “There’s a lot of teaching things that went on, but it wasn’t all bad. We didn’t rebound very well and they did a better job of rebounding. Quinton knocked some shots down in a crucial time and if he will continue to do that and be a rebounder than will be OK.”
Hampton 56
Hampton led 42-10 at the half, but JCHS never quit and gave a great second half effort.
The Lady Longhorns were out of sorts early and a very good Hampton team raced out to a huge lead.
However, the Lady Longhorns are continuing to create an identity they showed against Daniel Boone and it showed in the second half against the Lady Bulldogs.
“I don’t want people getting down on us and I tell my girls that we have to take baby steps,” JCHS head coach Todd Whittemore said. “You can’t just go from what’s been happening to where we want to be. It’s a process and I think one of the reasons why I’m here is to help these girls understand that it’s not going to happen in just one game. We did get a little bit better today. We didn’t quit and we didn’t give up. I hope those people out there saw a difference. I hope they saw that they are going to fight until the end and if we keep working hard we’ll have a chance.
The Lady Longhorns are without point guard Chevy Leonard indefinitely and JCHS has had to overcome that.
Sarah Swift started the game at point guard and Brooke Brown came in and handled most of the duties.
Ciera Boudle also played some there and played well at the end.
“We’ve just got to get a little bit better each other and our goal is to peak at the tournament,” Whittemore said.
Rebecca Royston and Brandy Dugger each had six points, Chelsea McCullouch had five, Brionna Reece had four, Ciera Boudle and Sarah Swift each had three and Andrea Eller tallied one.