By Tim Chambers
BLOUNTVILLE, TN.—The arctic air and near zero temperatures mirrored Johnson County’s shooting percentage from the field on Friday night inside the Dickie Warren Dome. The Longhorns shot a frigid 27 percent against Sullivan Central and fell 58-53 in a Three Rivers Conference game for both squads.
The Longhorns played well in the first quarter and built a 16-12 advantage after one, but things went from good to bad in the second frame. Johnson County scored only two points and trailed 23-18 at the half.
“Overall as a team we didn’t show up tonight,” said Johnson County’s head coach Austin Atwood. “We didn’t shoot very well but it went far beyond that. You can’t take nights off and win in our league and that’s what we did tonight. Giving Central credit but it’s the worst game we’ve played this season. We definitely didn’t deserve to win.”
Things started off well for the Horns in the first quarter. Blake Atwood drained a long three followed by baskets from Jordan Edes-King and Troy Arnold that vaulted them in front 13-5.
They held a four-point advantage going into the second quarter but went ice cold from that point.
The Cougars (9-9, 3-1) got their offense going that started with an offensive rebound and putback by Chris Bradley. They continued to shooting well getting jumpers by Jordan Self and Matt Long sandwiched in between a three-point play by Ben Williams.
Johnson County trailed by five at the half after being outscored 16-2 in the quarter.
Their struggles continued in the third quarter as Central started off on a 6-2 run and went 31-22 at the 5:35 mark.
The Longhorns finally found their offense with Atwood tossing in six points while Edes-King and Nathan Arnold recorded four apiece.
They trailed 36-32 heading into the fourth period but would retake the lead just moments later.
Atwood’s 3-ball allowed them to move in front 27-36 but Central would answer with a basket from Jordan Self.
The Longhorns (10-6, 1-2) had too many turnovers and defensive breakdowns in the final four minutes to pull out an all important road win.
Kaden Duncan came off the bench to score six points on two-long range treys that broke the Longhorns’ back but they didn’t quit. They trailed 51-41 with 2:59 remaining but began to whittle away at the deficit.
Atwood’s long range shooting and some good free throw shooting by Edes-King got the Horns within a bucket late in the game, but another defensive let-down would finally bury them.
Grayson Wright caught a long inbounds pass and turned it into a three-point play that put the game out of reach for the Longhorns.
“I’m so disappointed and frustrated,” added Atwood. “We should have had somebody back defending on the breakout basket but that’s my fault. I’ll shoulder the blame for that.”
Atwood came to the defense of his team, but it was Central’s defense that forced them into several turnovers and forced shots.
Bud Icenhour was held to only two points after getting 30 in Tuesday’s win over Cloudland.
Atwood scored 22 points and had three steals and three assists to pace the Longhorns. Edes-King added 14 points and seven rebounds. Nathan Arnold contributed eight points, five rebounds and two steals. Eller provided seven rebounds which tied for team high honors.
Self topped the Cougars with 17 points while Williams and Harrison added 12 and 10 points respectively.
The Longhorns now must regroup for a four-game stretch that starts with Happy Valley and Sullivan East at home on Tuesday and Friday.
Sullivan Central 58,
Johnson County 53
JOHNSON CO. (53)
Atwood 22, Edes-King 14, N. Arnold 8, Eller 3, Icenhour 2 T. Arnold 4, Reece 0.
SULLIVAN CENTRAL (58)
Self 17, B. Williams 12, Harrison 10, Duncan 6, Long 5, Bradley 2, Wright 4.
Johnson Co. 16 2 14 21 — 53
Sul. Central 12 11 13 22 — 58
3-point goals—JC 5 (Atwood 4, Eller 1) SC 4 (Duncan 2, Williams 1, Self 1)