In a way it was a heartbreaking loss, but in another way it was a step in the right direction for the JCHS Boys Basketball Team.
In one of the most exciting games in a long time involving JCHS, the Longhorns ended up losing to Elizabethton 85-83 in three overtimes at Treadway Gym Saturday night.
The Longhorns and the Cyclones battled for almost two and a half hours and put on a dazzling display of basketball for the fans.
Though the loss was very difficult for JCHS, it was an improvement from the night before when the Longhorns lost by 13 to Happy Valley.
JCHS has only won four games and has yet to defeat a Tennessee school yet, but this was a step in the right direction.
The Longhorns played two freshmen early and played a lot of younger guys, then the Longhorn seniors finished out the game and really played admirably.
In addition to another outstanding 32-point effort by Jason Steele, Sammy Hampton finished with a varsity career high 29, Cody Brown played his best game of the year from the point and Jason Dugger had an outstanding effort defensively.
This was a lot better than what I had been having to look at, JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. We went to a different rotation and it worked well. We got tired down the stretch. We were 21-of-36 from the free throw line, but we made a stride in the right direction tonight.
Atwood sent a message to his seniors this week and they really did respond with an incredible effort.
The four seniors left played from the third quarter on and really kept JCHS with a chance to win.
The game went back and forth as JCHS and EHS kept trading buckets and it took until the third overtime for the Longhorns to stumble.
JCHS fought in the overtime and sent the game into a second overtime when Hampton hit a big three to tie the game at 71-71.
In the second overtime, JCHS fell behind 75-71 and rallied to tie it a 77-77 to force a third overtime.
The Longhorns finally ran out of gas in the third overtime, but it was an incredible effort for JCHS.
Atwood was extremely proud of his seniors for answering the call.
Were staying with the rotation and playing some of the younger guys, Atwood said. Were going to bring some of the older guys off the bench and theyre comfortable with that. It was definitely a step in the right direction.
We had to fight so hard in the second overtime. When you have to fight that hard to tie, we knew we were going to have to have a little luck down the stretch.
Brown played probably the best hes played as a Longhorn as he cut down on his turnovers and really ran a smooth game from the point.
He finally did some things that helped us, he said.
Though the seniors will get most of the credit for the great effort, players like Tyler Shaw, Dusty Stout and Ryan Mahala really did contribute well.
Were going to play these young kids and theyre going to have to grow up in a hurry, Atwood said.
Atwood sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was very encouraged tonight, Atwood said.
JCHS Scoring: Jason Steele 32, Sammy Hampton 29, Cody Brown 12, Jason Dugger 4, Tyler Shaw 3, Quinton Wright 1.
Happy Valley 59
The Warriors withstood a strong beginning to the second half by the Longhorns and took the win at Shoun Gym.
Happy Valley led 34-28 at halftime, but JCHS rallied to with two at 40-38 after a dunk by Steele.
Happy Valley went on a 6-0 run and then head coach Charlie Bayless slowed it down and put the Longhorns away.
Steele had 21 points, but only two in the fourth quarter.
The Longhorn defense also had plenty of breakdowns and overall it was a struggle.
When Charlie gets up on you by six or 12 its like someone being up on you by 15 or 20, Atwood said. They let the kids play down low which was a disadvantage to us.
Young players like freshman Brian Dempsey saw some action Friday night, meaning the Longhorns are looking ahead to the future.
Were going to go now to get some kids some experience for next year, Atwood said. Were going to start putting some heat on those young kids.
Atwood was once again disappointed with the defense and the fact it just isnt getting any better.
I really take pride in defense, but we play like a bunch of individuals right now, Atwood said. Weve got to find a way to fix it.
This is a game the Longhorns want to just forget.
Nothing at all pleased me tonight, Atwood said.
JCHS Scoring: Sammy Hampton 8, Andy Stout 2, Jason Steele 21, Ryan Mahala 2, Chase Kleine 3, Cody Brown 2, Dusty Stout 3, Jason Dugger 2, Brian Dempsey 2.
JCHS hosted Unicoi Tuesday, is at Tri-Cities Christian Thursday, hosts Sullivan East Friday and is at Sullivan East next Tuesday and hosts Cloudland next Thursday.