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Longhorns put early scare into Unicoi County before falling

By Matt Hill

For a half, it looked like JCHS was in prime position to pull off the biggest upset in the Three Rivers Conference in a long time, only to see things fall apart in the second half.
After leading 22-21 at halftime, the Longhorns saw the Blue Devils go on a huge spurt and fell 64-40 at Unicoi County’s gym on Friday night.
“The wheels fell off in the second half,” JCHS head coach Austin Atwood said. “In the first half we should have been up 10 or 12. Jason Steele didn’t play smart and got that third foul and we had to play the last four minutes with him and Cody Brown on the bench. Just to hold it together to be up by one was pretty good, but if those two guys are in there I think we’re up by 10 or 12. It would have been a little different game. The second half was a complete disaster.”
The Longhorns led by as many as seven points in the first, but the wheels started coming off late in the half. The momentum Unicoi gained carried over into the second half.
Austin Harrell caught fire and though JCHS held Logan Lyle to 12 points, Harrell proved to be too much.
Unicoi shot lights out in the third quarter and ended up outscoring JCHS 21-4 in third.
Unicoi led 42-26 after three and continued the hot shooting in the fourth.
Hensley finished with 19 points the Longhorns were no match for Unicoi in the second half.
“The Blue Devils are kind of like Phirannas, they keep coming after you,” Atwood said. “Harrell’s smart, he knows how to get kids open and is an all-around good player.
Atwood thought his first half play was very good.
“We went to the boards like crazy in the first half,” Atwood said. “The big thing we limited them to one shot. We’re a work in progress still. We’ve made some changes in the last couple of weeks and it’s paid off for us. I’m going to watch that first half film, but I’m not going to watch that second half film.”
JCHS Scoring: Jason Steele 12, Ryan Mahala 5, Chase Kleine 6, Cody Brown 8, Dusty Stout 2, Quinton Wright 1, Brian Dempsey 4, Skylar Reece 2.
Thursday’s Game
Tri-Cities Christian 44
The Longhorns won easily on Senior night and JCHS seniors Jason Steele, Cody Brown and Austin Humphrey went out with a win.
JCHS dominated this game as everything went right.
“We had great decision making and everybody on the floor played harder,” Atwood said. “Tri-Cities Christian is not a bad team. They’ve not lost a game since beat them at their place. We’re playing hard and playing smart. They just didn’t shoot it well. All three seniors played great.”
Steele had a couple of monster dunks, but the play of the night if not the year was Dusty Stout’s acrobatic layup that brought the house down.
“He better be glad that went in,” Atwood said. “I can’t say enough about Dusty Stout and we’re really proud of how he’s performing for us.”
Atwood knows the seniors are going to have to be the leaders in the postseason.
“If they can play a little better defense, we may have a shot of winning a game or two in the postseason,” Atwood said.
JCHS Scoring: Andy Stout 7, Jason Steele 20, Chase Kleine 5, Cody Brown 24, Dusty Stout 11, Quinton Wright 4, Austin Humphrey 5, Brian Dempsey 6, Skylar Reece 2.
Monday’s Game
Unaka 65
The Longhorns went into another hostile environment on Monday and were quickly greeted with two fouls called on standout post player Jason Steele and nothing went right from there.
When Steele was on the floor, he dominated and ended up with 22 points, but Unaka was hitting well from the outside.
The Rangers led 33-25 at halftime and were never really threatened.
Chase Kleine was very strong in defeat, finishing with a big 18 point effort.
The Longhorns play Elizabethton in the District 1-AA Tournament Friday at 8 p.m.