The Longhorns havent had much luck playing in Elizabethton, and that seemed to hold true even playing there against Sullivan North in the first round of the Three Rivers Conference District Tournament. Having nearly beaten the Raiders at home earlier in the week, fans were expecting a close match up, and for the first three quarters thats largely what they got.
The game started off with Johnson County trailing by six points, but with a first basket by Brian Dempsey the Longhorns got on a roll that saw them overtake the Raiders and actually come out on top 14-8 by the end of the period. A strong showing by Ryan Mahala and a three-pointer from Dalton Timbs were key to putting Johnson County in the drivers seat and helped them keep the momentum going all the way through the first half.
A defensive game early on, neither side made more than a handful of baskets in the second quarter, but with continuing shots from Dempsey, Timbs and Chase Phillips, as well as a basket from Chris Poteet, Johnson County was still in a leading position in the last minute before the half. Unfortunately, as head Coach Austin Atwood pointed out, a single bad turn can truly affect the final outcome.
That first half we did exactly what we wanted to do, Atwood said. Then in the last 45 seconds of the second quarter, Chase Phillips, one our guys that we want to shoot the shot, throws it to a kid that doesnt even want the ball. Were up seven, 40 seconds and hes got a good look, but he throws it to River Cazire, who was going after the rebound, which was what he was supposed to do. He turns it over and they get the bucket. Its just about recognizing that thats a sophomore mistake, but it was huge. They get the turnover, go back down and score and then come in down three. That was huge. It changed the momentum. I thought we defended the first couple of minutes of the second half pretty good, but we just couldnt get a bucket on the other end.
Within the first few minutes of the third quarter Johnson County had moved from a commanding position to trying to keep up with a newly energized Sullivan North. Brian Dempsey continued to be the lead scorer for the Longhorns, helping to put up enough baskets to keep his team in the running and closing out the period still trailing by only five points at 30-35.
With Johnson County already scrambling to regain their composure, a huge three-pointer early on in the fourth only set the Longhorns back that much farther. The offense floundered at 34 on the scoreboard and didnt pick back up again until Atwood began putting in players from the bench. By that time the chances for a win had diminished to the point that it became more important to get a single basket than to hope for a turnaround.
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