In the opening night of the season the Johnson County Longhorns left the hometown fans on the edge of their seat, playing an extremely close game against the Daniel Boone Trailblazers that came down to a couple of critical plays in an extra overtime period. The Longhorns were the first to get on the board with an early foul against Ryan Mahala. A string of long range Blazer buckets made Johnson County have to work very hard to keep up, but with Dalton Timbs and Chase Phillips leading the way the Longhorns were able to answer nearly every advance from Boone.
By the end of the first quarter, the Trail Blazers had come out on top but only by one basket at 12-14. The Longhorns kept at it and after the first couple of minutes into the second had actually taken the lead with help from a strong showing on the rebound by Ryan Mahala. The game tied back up at 18-18 halfway through the period when Dalton Timbs made one of the most controversial plays of the night. With a strong display of control over the ball, Timbs was able to drive up the court and go in for a bucket. With one of Boones defenders coming up to block it looked as though there might even be a possibility of a foul shot, but to the fans obvious dismay, officials called the play a charge against the Longhorns. At first I was just going crazy, Timbs said. I was excited, but then I saw our team going back and I got really upset, but Im happy overall. Normally were not this good at the start of the year so Im excited about the season. This will definitely be something to build off of, no doubt. We did well as a team. Our bench players did great, they came in and did just as good as the starters. We have great chemistry this year.
Despite losing these two critical points, the Longhorns rapidly pulled back into the lead again, this time with a bucket from Chris Poteet. Johnson County remained in the lead all the way up to the last minute before the half when the Blazers made yet another three-point shot to even things up at 25-25.
Problems defending these long range shots, coupled with some difficulty at the free throw line, seemed to trouble head coach Austin Atwood, but overall there was a sense of satisfaction with the way the team played. We didnt defend the three, Atwood said. I think they hit 10 threes, but it was something to build on. We didnt block out very well, missed a couple of key block outs. We were 11 for 21 on free throws; those were huge and could have been a game changer. But the point of the game where it was lost came early in the second half where we had two layups, two bunnies, that we had been making 8 out of 10 times. We missed both of them and on both possessions they came down and hit a three. That was a ten-point swing in two possessions.
As Atwood pointed out, the game took a sharp downturn coming back from the half, with those two pivotal plays helping to turn over control of the game and leaving the Longhorns scrambling behind by 8 at 28-36. Regaining their composure, Johnson County began battling back starting with a couple of back-to-back shots by Ryan Mahala. A three-pointer from J.R. Speed helped things along and by the last couple of minutes in the third quarter Johnson County was only behind by one.
A last Daniel Boone three pushed the Blazers up to 49, but Chris Poteet was able to give the Longhorns one last score of their own to close out the period 46-49. With both teams itching for the win, the fourth quarter was an all out battle. Boone kept the upper hand for the first half, but by the two-minute mark the game was once again tied, this time at 58.
With less than one minute left in the game Ryan Mahala made a critical play to put the Longhorns ahead at 60. Forced to turn the ball back over to the Blazers with just over 40 seconds left on the clock, Johnson County struggled to keep their opponents away from the net. Their efforts backfired as Mahala actually ended up fouling out and giving Boone the chance they needed. With bated breath, fans watched as the Blazers shooter first made one and then the other free throw, tying the game and sending it into overtime.
This team knows how to play with a sense of urgency, said Atwood. They know when to buckle down. The good thing about that is that theyll get better at it as the year goes on, where we dont get in these situations. Theyll get to where they play hard the whole time, because I thought we had some lapses where we would get up by four or five and then just didnt take it to 10, 12, or 14.
To read the entire article, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.