In the second surprise beginning for the night, the Johnson County Longhorns were on top of their game right out of the gate, making quick gains against a seemingly disoriented team of Unicoi Blue Devils. Picking up a free throw and layup from Brian Dempsey just over a minute into the game, the Longhorns were well on the board before Unicoi made their first score. By the end of the first quarter, the Blue Devils had managed to put up five against a strong Johnson County defense, but were seven behind the Longhorns with 12.
The winning trend remained with the home team for the first half of the second quarter, as an energized Chase Kleine landed two consecutive buckets that gave the longhorns a doubled score at 16-8. However, a team does not become the highest ranked in their conference by giving up early, and the Blue Devils began to make their claim with four minutes left in the period. Holding Johnson County to twenty, Unicoi began chipping away at their opponents lead, and would have taken back control except for a clock busting save by Chase Phillips that ended the first half on a tie 22-22.
With the blue devils geared up to pull out a win, Johnson County found their hands full coming into the third. The Longhorns werent able to put up a basket for nearly three minutes while Unicoi jumped in with a couple of early foul shots and two more buckets under their belt that put the score to 24-28. A big three point bucket by Chase Phillips helped to even things back up, and with another pick up by Kleine, prolonged the Longhorns chances of taking back the game.
For Phillips, a freshman exemplifying Johnson Countys young talent, the shot was just one of several that have been made this season with increasing reliability. At times I get a little bit nervous but I know Im going to pull through with it and my team mates will help me out. I know that as long as they can get open Ill get them the ball and as long as Im open theyll get me the ball. I try to focus in on the goal and block the crowd out. I just focus where Im shooting at. I know sometimes that its going in as soon as it leaves my hands. It got every body going: the crowd, the team, the coach. It just felt good.
By the end of the third Phillips had made another 3, and two layups that helped put the Longhorns back in front with a tenuous and short lived one point lead at 36 -35. Followed up by a Unicoi bucket, the lead slipped back again, but a foul with less than a minute on the clock gave Chase Kleine the chance to end the quarter on a good note at 38-37. With another quick gain at the start of the fourth, it appeared that Johnson County might be back in the game.
Unfortunately, starting with a well timed three pointer, the Blue Devils made their own drive and took back control for the last time of the night half way through the period. The Longhorns fought to keep up, but as the clock wore down and the pressure ramped up, began to make some sloppy mistakes. Landing at 46 on the score board with two minutes left in the game, Johnson County began watching their chances at the win slip through their fingers as the lead jumped rapidly from two points to seven. A free throw by Kleine with 20 seconds on the clock proved to be the last gain by the Longhorns, closing the game 47-54.
Seeming disappointed with the final outcome, Coach Austin Atwood attributed several factors to the loss. They shot 30 free throws and we shot 8. I guess they fouled more but I dont know. We werent blocking out. Theyre long and theyre big, and theyve won for a lot of years. We kept pressing and kept pushing but just couldnt get over them. I thought if we could have got the lead back there at the end of the fourth quarter we might have pulled it out.
Final Scores: Johnson County 47- Unicoi County 54
Chase Phillips 15
Chase Kleine 14
Carlton Tugman 6
Brian Dempsey 5
Ryan Mahala 3
Quinton Wright 2
Dusty Stout 2