By Tim Chambers
Johnson County was hoping that its 11-point lead in the third quarter would stick like gorilla glue on plastic. Instead it faded away like newspaper pictures on Silly Putty.
East rallied for a 58-52 win after trailing 36-25 with 5:28 remaining in the third period. The keys to their comeback were simple.
Poor free throw shooting, getting whipped on the boards and not valuing offensive possessions were factors in the game that they couldn’t overcome. Head coach Austin Atwood summed up the disappointing loss.
“We’re not going to win very many games when Bud takes only six shots and we miss 10 free throws and a sack full of layups,” said Atwood. “Plus we got killed on the boards and Blake didn’t play well either. He got his shots but he has to make those. Zack Eller is stepping up and doing his part and Troy is playing much better. Lucas Phillips and Gavin Reece are doing their part, but everyone has to play well at the same time in order for us to win. It’s all about finding the right combinations and tonight we didn’t do that.”
East opened up in a box-in-one defensively on Johnson County’s Bud Icenhour who had knocked down nine treys and scored 30 points against Happy Valley. He had trouble shaking free from his defender and help was always there when he did.
That forced the remaining quartet of Longhorns to score to try and hang with the highly regarded Patriots.
Zack Eller gave the Horns a 5-2 lead by swishing a trey, then troy Arnold pulled them even with a three-point play after East had gone up 9-6.
Both teams were knotted at 9-9 heading into the second quarter.
Johnson County got its offense going getting consecutive treys from Blake Atwood, Eller and Icenhour.
They managed to hold a 25-21 halftime lead but it could have been a whole lot more.
The Longhorns missed seven bunnies in the paint and were 2-of-8 from the foul line. East cashed in on their missed opportunities to stay in the hunt.
The duo of Eller and Nathan Arnold kept the Horns even with their outstanding play in the third quarter. Eller fired in two more treys and Arnold added five points including a trifecta. A late basket by Troy Arnold dead-locked the game at 42-42 heading into the final quarter.
Turnovers and cold shooting would spell defeat for Johnson County in the final stanza after they had gotten off to a dynamite start.
Atwood drained a trey and Icenhour added a three-point play to put them up 48-42. That’s where the wheels came off the wagon for Johnson County.
East tied the game on baskets by Adam Davidson and Mason Johnson then moved in front on another Johnson basket. They capped off the 11-0 run with a pair of free throws by Davidson that put them up 53-48. Eller had a trey that got them back to within one but the Longhorns couldn’t overcome several miscues down the stretch to pull out a much needed win.
The Longhorns turned the ball over four times during the 11-0 run and East turned that into nine points. They ended the game shooting 4-of-14 from the foul line and misfired inside on three-point blank shots which also didn’t help matters.
“There are no excuses for not making free throws and layups,” added Atwood. “We fouled a three-point shooter late in the game plus we allowed them to dominate us on the board. Those things add up and it cost us the ball game.”
The Longhorns still had opportunities to come away with a victory despite all their miscues. They turned it over in the final minute with a chance to tie and misfired on a trey.
Eller knocked down six treys en route to his game high 18 points to lead the Longhorns. Atwood added nine points and the Arnold duo of Nathan and Troy scored seven points apiece. Icenhour was held to six and Jordan Edes finished with five.
Davidson tied for high game honors with Eller by scoring 18 points for East. Ethan Whitley added 15 points, six that came from the charity stripe. Johnson reached double figures with 11.
The Patriots had a huge size advantage led by 6’7 center Dayne Davis. He finished the game with 10 rebounds helping East t to a whooping 39-20 edge. Whitney added nine boards and Johnson collected seven.
East was plus nine from the foul line making 13-of-20.
Edes-King had seven rebounds to lead the Longhorns. Nathan Arnold dished out six assists in addition to his five rebounds. Atwood added four assists and three steals.
Johnson County fell into a three-way tie for fourth place with Elizabethton and Sullivan South. They are currently 2-3 in league play and 11-7 overall.
Sullivan East 58, Johnson County 52
JOHNSON CO. (52)
Eller 18, Atwood 9, N. Arnold 7, T. Arnold 7, Icenhour 6, Edes-King 5, Phillips 0, Reece 0
SULLIVAN EAST (58)
Davidson 18, Whitley 15, Johnson 11, Davis 5, Bartley 4, Lowe 4, Chapman 0.
Johnson Co . 8 17 17 10 — 52
Sullivan East 12 9 21 16 — 58
3-point goals—JC 10 (Eller 6, Atwood 2, N. Arnold 2, Icenhour 1) SE 5 (Davidson 2, Whitley 2, Johnson)