By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
All the pieces were in place to have a storybook season. Johnson County returned five senior starters and was picked by many to be a state tournament contender.
It all looked good on paper. Unfortunately, games are not won on paper. The media doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict the season’s outcome, and you never know when an injury might reduce your chances down from contender to pretender.
The Longhorns got reduced down to a pretender status, and they only had to travel a short distance for it to happen on December 21, just four days before Christmas.
The Platters told us about “The Great Pretender” in 1955, and Freddie Mercury reminded us again in 1987.
Many may disagree with this scribe about labeling the Longhorns a pretender but let’s look at the overall picture.
The second line of the song says “pretending that I’m doing well.”
Johnson County was playing good basketball, winning seven of their last ten games up to that point but Sean Lewis was playing great basketball.
He was averaging almost 20 points per game over a ten game stretch and better than 22 points per contest in their last six before his injury.
Little did we know that the short trip to Hampton would be a marathon trip back after Lewis went down with a torn ACL.
He went after a ball and slid into the bleachers. It appeared as if his hustle play would result in a bad bruise and it did to some degree.
It bruised the hearts of the Longhorn coaching staff and players, but it crushed the heart of Lewis.
The Great Pretender stated: “I play the game, but to my real shame, you’ve left me to dream all alone.”
Head coach, Austin Atwood’s dreams, would become nightmares on that evening. Lewis’ departure was a severe blow to all.
He was playing at a level that he had never played before. And his defense and athleticism were just as good as his offense.
They lost their next conference game without him 58-53 at Sullivan Central. A home loss to Sullivan East later came we had defeated Happy Valley in the mini dome.
The Longhorns led for most of the game but couldn’t hold on down the stretch. And you better believe that we could have used Lewis.
I can see Coach Atwood, sitting back and pretending that he was still around. Maybe he pretended to be a clown to help get his mind off of things.
Lewis instead did a Roy Rogers and rode off into the sunset.
So was Johnson County a contender or pretender? I think they were a little bit of both.
In a blink of the eye, they lost a key cog in their offense and defense. They still were among just a fist full of teams that won over 20 games in 2017-18.
They finished 22-11 which included a win at Unicoi County and a sweep of Elizabethton and Hampton.
Not a bad season for a team that had to put the loss of Lewis behind them and pretend that it didn’t happen.
If only the feeling we experienced had been make-believe.
We might have been wearing a District & Regional title crown.
Tim Chambers is the sports editor for the Tomahawk. You can contact him by email at [email protected]