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Longhorns start on positive note

By Rick Sheek

Johnson County kicked off the basketball season on the right foot.
The Longhorns edged Avery County 63-61 on Friday night in Hall of Champions action at Shoun Gymnasium. Carlton Tugman had a put-back with 19 seconds remaining to spur the Longhorns ahead, and Avery was unable to get off a decent shot as time expired.
“We knew we were going to be sluggish,” Johnson County coach Austin Atwood said. “We played a lot of kids. They battled there at the end, and got a big stop. Dang Avery is sure athletic, and went to the boards.”
Brian Dempsey and Tugman paced the Longhorns with 12 points each. Ryan Mahala hauled in nine rebounds.
“I didn’t think we rebounded very well, which is something we really stressed in practice, so that’s kind of disappointing,” Atwood said. “Seven for 15 from the free throw line. We shouldn’t have won the game, shooting like that. To get the win, not doing very well in those two areas, we did OK.”
Alex Villaneuva, Avery’s college-prospect quarterback, gunned in 18 points and made five steals. He fouled out with 3:40 remaining the affair knotted at 57-all.
“That was probably the game,”Atwood said.
Hunter Shields propeled the Vikings ahead 59-57 with three minutes to go. Dempsey tied it back up.
Dusty Stout scored off a Chase Phillips steal and Johnson County was on top 61-59 with 1:40 left. A put-back from Avery’s Austin Lyons made it 61-apiece.
Lyons totaled 11 points and seven boards. Shields hit 10 points.
After 3-pointers from Bryce Pittman and Luke Wotall, the Vikings led 9-8 in the first quarter. Atwood then replaced his starting five with five off the bench, and Chris Poteet’s put-back spurred Johnson County ahead 10-9 at the 2:55 mark.
Tugman scored, Dalton Timbs nailed a 3-pointer and Poteet had a put-back. The Longhorns carried a 19-16 advantage into the second period.
Mahala gave Johnson County a five-point lead to open the second quarter. Avery had rallied even, before Dusty Stout answered with a 3-pointer to put the Longhorns up 24-21.
Buckets from Dempsey and J.R. Speed extended that cushion to 28-22. After leading by eight, Johnson County saw the lead trimmed to 31-30 at the break.
Baskets from Dempsey and Tugman pushed the advantage to 35-30. Tugman converted a three-point play and the lead was 41-36 at the 3:46 mark.
Timbs drained another 3-pointer and advantage was 48-41 with 1:03 remaining in the period. It was 50-43 after a Poteet bucket.
The Vikings pulled within 50-45 heading in the final period. In the third’s final minute, Villanueva hammered down a one-hand breakaway slam dunk — but was whistled for charging.
Villanueva’s 3-pointer to open the fourth cut the deficit to 50-48. The Vikings went up by one.
The contest was tied before Andy Stout pushed Johnson County back ahead 53-51 at the 6:25 mark.
Baskets from Timmy Stewart and Lyons saw Avery lead 55-53. Mahala knotted the outing with 4:56 to go.
Tossing in six points apiece for Johnson County were Mahal, Timbs and Poteet. Coming up with three steals each were Phillips and Dusty Stout, while Quinton Wright made two.
The Vikings were 9 of 18 at the foul line. Stewart scored seven, while Pittman and Wotall hit six apiece.
“Tugman came in and made some big shots,” Atwood said. “We’re just a work in progress. We’ve got to get better.”