By Tim Chambers
It’s always special to win on Senior Night, but the way Johnson County did it on Saturday will go down as one of the most memorable ones in school history. The Longhorns overcame a seven-point deficit late in the game and escaped with a dramatic 64-63 win.
South took a 61-54 lead on Luke Pollack’s trey with 1:56 remaining in the game before the Longhorns would begin their surge.
Blake Atwood’s steal and layup got them within three at 61-58 with 1:18 remaining. That’s when a capacity crowd inside Ray Shoun Gymnasium would witness one of the best finishes of all time.
Bud Icenhour drained an off-balanced three that tied the game at 61 all then Atwood put them up 64-63 with another off wing with 22 seconds remaining.
The Longhorns had a chance to go up more but missed a 1-plus-1 with 10 seconds remaining. South got the ball inside to Chase Bowery who had scored 23 points in the game. He got off a 10-footer that hit the front of the rim but fell off. The Longhorns crowd erupted with a standing ovation.
“South did a great job of preparing for us,” said Johnson County’s head coach Austin Atwood. “They were able to take away some things from us tonight that we were able to do over there on Thursday. I thought Troy Arnold did a great job of defending Bowery on that last shot without fouling him. Blake had a really good game once he got in there. Bud and Jordan Edes played lights out. We got some good play off the bench too. This team sure knows how to grind them out. I am pleased because this is a good win going into the tournament.”
The Horns started five seniors including Jimmy Bower and Lane Isaac along with their regular starters Edes, Icenhour and Nathan Arnold.
South came out hotter than a pistol and built a 17-4 lead at one point.
The Horns begin chipping away at the deficit, and it didn’t take them long to make it vanish.
Baskets by Edes and Atwood late in the first half left JC trailing 23-22 at intermission, and the game remained close over the next two frames.
The lead swapped hands four times in the third quarter before South went up 44-40 on Bowery’s three-point play late in the quarter.
A three-ball from the corner by Gavin Reece allowed Johnson County to trim it back to one at 44-43 heading into the final quarter.
South worked the inside for a couple of baskets to start the fourth quarter and finally was able to go up by seven.
That’s when the heroics begin.
Atwood finished the night with 23 points, five assists, and four steals. Icenhour added 19 points and four assists. Edes was a force inside with 17 points and five rebounds. Zack Eller and Nathan Arnold collected two steals each helping Johnson County total 11 for the game.
Cole Layne and Ethan Ward tallied 14 and 13 points respectively for South to compliment Bowery’s 23.
The most special moment on Senior Night came when senior Sean Lewis was introduced in the starting lineup. Lewis tore his ACL back in December and was averaging nearly 22 points per contest over his last five games before the injury. He swished a three-ball from the wing off the opening tip which brought a standing ovation from everyone in the gym.
Johnson County 64, Sullivan South 63
JOHNSON COUNTY (64)
Atwood 23, Icenhour 19, Edes 17, Eller 0, N. Arnold 0, Reece 3, T. Arnold 2, Phillips 0, Bower 0, Isaac 0
SULLIVAN SOUTH (63)
Bowery 23, Layne 14, Ward 13, Pollock 3, Parker 3, Diamond 3, Moore 4
Johnson County 4 18 21 21 — 64
Sullivan South 11 12 21 19 — 63
3-point goals—JC 8 (Icenhour 4, Atwood 3, Reece 1) SS 9 (Bowery 3, Layne 3, Diamond, Pollack, Parker)