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Longhorns fight hard in District Championship loss

A magical District Tournament came to an end Tuesday night for the JCHS Boys Basketball Team, but not wiithout another effort that made a huge fan contingent very proud.
The 'Horns good fortune ran out Tuesday night in a 58-44 defeat to Unicoi County at Richard Carroll Gym despite some special moments.
From a 9-0 start by the Longhorns to a heroic seven points in a minute and a half by T.J. Patterson late in the game, JCHS fans had plenty to cheer about.
The Longhorns simply ran out of gas following a huge start, but once again made the county proud against a Unicoi County team that reclaimed its District title that it lost last year to Sullivan East.
“They did some super job of knocking down shots,” JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. “We really rebounded and defended well in the first quarter and early in the second. We got a little tired and they have a game less and had probably a little more stamina. Bottom line is this, they started pressuring the ball and had a couple of kids who made some plays.”
The Longhorns started off hot as Jason Steele was on fire early and the Longhorns raced out to a 9-0 lead. When Chase Kleine hit a big bucket, it was 16-8 JCHS and the Longhorns looked on their way to their first District title in 16 years.
Then the tidal wave hit Kingsport as Unicoi County and Logan Lyle went on a tear that sparked an 11-0 and gave the Blue Devils a 19-16 advantage
Unicoi County led 26-20 at the half and JCHS was trying to slow the tempo down, stalling at the end of the second quarter.
“We got kind of worn down, but this has been great for the kids,” Atwood said. “We're looking forward to Saturday night and we need all the support we can get from our fans.”
The second half continued like the second quarter as the Blue Devils went on a 26-8 run and the Longhorns could have quit and folded the tent.
Instead, JCHS made the game respectable and had about a minute and a half stretch that probably all Longhorn fans will never forget.
Sophomore T.J. Patterson, who has had to suffer through a house fire and a family tragedy, entered the game to shoot free throws and wound up hitting a three and a another bucket and finished with seven-straight points.
Atwood cleared the bench and JCHS received a glimpse of the future as freshman Brian Dempsey scored a bucket in his first appearance in the District Championship game.
The Longhorns wound up cutting the JCHS lead to 13 points in the final minute.
Patterson received a standing ovation from the Longhorn fans and the Sullivan North students who were cheering for Johnson County.
“This was a great experience for those guys to get to play in a District Championship game and do well,” Atwood said. “Getting District championship experience for those young guys was tremendous.”
Atwood was exceptionally proud of the way Patterson played.
“It kind of puts things in perspective on what life is all about,” Atwood said. “That's one tough kid and he will prevail through all this and tough times don't last but tough people do. T.J is a tough kid. They'll fight through this and prevail.”
Steele after his fast start finished with 19 points, but still wound up being the MVP of the tournament despite being on the second-place team.
Steele scored 36 against Elizabethton and had 25 points and 12 rebounds against Sullivan East.
It is very rare for a player to win MVP on a team that does not win a tournament, but Steele was just too good for the whole event to pass up on him.
“There was no doubt about it,” Atwood said. “If Logan Lyle would have won it, he would have deserved it, but when you look around at the supporting cast it's a little bit different.
Unicoi County head John English knew the Longhorns would give his team a fight.
“They came out on fire and we just had to settle,” English said. “We've had a couple of slow starts, but we talk all the time about how it's a 32-minute game but we know if we stay committed to it we have a chance to win.
“Johnson County did a great job getting to this game. You know how much respect I have for Coach Atwood and his staff and his kids, it was nice to see them make the run as a six seed and get those wins.”
The Longhorns student section really got behind the JCHS Boys Tuesday night as they teamed up with Sullivan North's students to cheer the Longhorns on to victory and went toe-to-toe with the Blue Nation from Unicoi County.
The whole JCHS fan base was alive and it pleased Atwood.
“They did a great job and we expect the same thing Saturday night,” Atwood said.
JCHS Scoring: Andy Stout 3, Jason Steele 19, T.J. Patterson 7, Chase Kleine 8, Dusty Stout 3, Austin Humphrey 2, Brian Dempsey 2.
Unicoi Scoring: Austin Harrell 7, Trevor Shelton 11, Lucas Hensley 2, Ethan Rice 4, Logan Lyle 24, Austin Hensley 9, Caleb McNeese 1.
In addition to Steele winning MVP, Cody Brown and Austin Humphrey were All-Tournament selections.
The Longhorns host Cumberland Gap Saturday at 7 p.m.