JC’s Troy Arnold (44) finds a way to score over East’s 6’8 center Dayne Davis. Arnold had six points and six rebounds in the 59-55 win. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

BLUFF CITY—Winning inside the Dyer Dome has been like trying to find a needle in a haystack for Johnson County in recent years. That was until Friday night.
Blake Atwood tickled the twine for a game-high 26 points including 20 in the second half to lead the Longhorns past Sullivan East
59-55. And he did it
against a variety of gimmick defense
Johnson County’s last
win over East came in 2014 in the District Tournament. More importantly, they are now 4-1 in the Three
Rivers Conference and 12-5 overall.
“We’ve not beaten them since I started playing as a freshman,” said Blake Atwood. “I can’t ever remember winning at home and especially not here. I know it’s a big win for us.”
Trying to solve the Patriots defense was like trying to find the right combination to a locked safe. The reward was huge after deciphering the code.
East chose to double up
on the senior guard just
steps after crossing the
half court line. They also went triangle to try and avoid Atwood benefiting from
mismatches. Nothing appeared to work in the second half.
“I told our coaching staff that Coach (John) Dyer would have something we weren’t prepared for and he did,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “He made sure somebody was within six or eight inches of him most of the game. It helped us because we extended it out and started getting it into the middle and then hit our post guys that gave us some good looks. Blake got a lot of shot around the 15-foot range and used the Euro step to complete a few more drives in the paint. Our kids did a great job of finding him, and we took good shots for the most part.”

Longhorns rev it up in the second quarter
The game got off to a slow start with East holding a 10-9 lead after one. It was Johnson County’s defense in the second quarter that dominated play along with the return of Lucas Phillips.
At one point the Pats misfired on six straight shots, and the Horns converted them into 10 points.
Phillips produced two long treys and Atwood buried another that extended their advantage to eight. Michael Oxentine added a putback that stretched the halftime lead at 27-16 inside the final minute.
Clutch baskets by Troy Arnold and Zach Eller jumpstarted a pair of mini-runs that allowed the Horns to surge ahead.

Atwood enjoys a sizzling second half
They would turn to Atwood in the second half to do most of their offensive damage, but it was dagger delivered by Gavin Reece that would do East in.
Atwood scored 20 points in the last 13 minutes of the game including a dipsy-doodle down the middle that put them up 53-44 with 2:50 remaining in the third.
The Pats rallied late in
the game behind six points from Dylan Bartley to close within three at 53-50 with 1:35 remaining. It was the second run in the fourth
quarter by East who got
their bubble burst on the first one.
They got within two near the midway mark, but Reece swished a three-pointer from deep in the corner to stop their momentum at the 4:42 mark. That extended the Horns’ lead to 49-42.
He said he was hesitant about taking the shot.
“I wanted to pass it out and run some clock, but I heard Coach Atwood telling me to shoot it,” said Reece. “I was glad to see it go in because they were making a run. I’m glad Coach had confidence in me to make the shot. It’s tough to beat them on their home court.”
Phillips cashed in two crucial free throws late in the game along with Arnold who also converted a pair.
“The shot Gavin made was the one in the game,” said coach Atwood. “We don’t win the game without Lucas shooting the ball as he did. And I can’t say enough about the way that Troy, Michael, Blake, and Zach went to the boards along with Gavin. Zach didn’t shoot well, but he did a great job of finding the open man. This was a huge win for us because you’re never going to outcoach John Dyer. You just hope your kids play well enough to win against them.”
Blake Atwood added eight rebounds to go along with his game-high 26 points. Phillips tossed in 13 including two clutch free throws that put them up 57-51 with .59 seconds remaining. Arnold provided six points and six rebounds. Oxentine and Reece collected six points apiece. Eller amassed eight assists, five rebounds, and two
steals.
“They have a great player, and everybody on their teams does their roles 100 percent,” said East head coach John Dyer. “They have one heck of a team.”
The Bartley brothers, Dylan, and Dustin (a freshman) scored 17 points apiece for the Patriots. Dayne Davis, their 6’8 center collected 15 rebounds.
Atwood knows that East will be a factor.
“I think they’re still the best team in the league if everyone plays their best along with Elizabethton. They both have size and some excellent shooters. Both teams will be very tough to beat.”

Johnson Co. 9 18 14 18 -59
Sullivan East 10 6 20 19 -55
3-point goals—JC 5 (Atwood 2, Phillips 2, Reece 1) SE 5 (Du. Bartley 2, Dy. Bartley 2,
Davison 1)