'Horns thwart Rangers

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   MOUNTAIN CITY-- The Johnson County faithful were about as anxious to see the Longhorns play a perfect basketball game as people attending a wedding are to see the bride enter the church.
   That perfect game finally came Monday night.
   The Longhorns played their best game of the season en route to defeating the Unaka Rangers 72-51 at Ray Shoun Gym.
   While Johnson County was hitting just about anything they threw up, Unaka head coach Donald Ensor admitted his team didn't bring its A-game to Mountain City.
   "Coach Atwood does a good job," Ensor said. "I knew that he would have his team ready to play. We just weren't ready to play. We came in and were flat."
   There was nothing flat about Johnson County's start.
   The Longhorns came out hitting on all cylinders, as they raced out to a commanding 26-8 lead after one period of play.
   A key cog in that first quarter was senior Chad Reece. He just joined the team this year, and had been pretty quiet early on. But on this night he scored nine in the first eight minutes, and finished the game with 19 points.
   "I keep telling Chad that he's not going to get to contribute a whole lot until we get five or six games under his belt," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "This was just his fifth game, so he's sort of starting to see the light. He took the open shot and he drained them. It's hard to guard a 6-4 guy on the wing."
   Reece had 14 by halftime, and the Longhorns took a 41-23 edge into the locker room.
   "I've never had a night like this," Reece said.
   Reece came into the game with the flu, but he wasn't going to let that stop him from playing in this game.
   "I love to beat Unaka," Reece said. "I would rather beat them than anybody."
   Another Johnson County player who had recently been quiet, but exploded in this one was Judd Shoun. The point guard scored 10 of his 15 in the first half, and ran the floor almost perfectly.
   "He controlled our tempo tonight," Atwood said. "He closed out on shooters a lot better than he has. He didn't turn the ball over. Judd played a heck of a game."
   Said Shoun: "I just decided to step it up. You've got to have a point guard if you want to win. You have to have someone who steps up and says it's time to slow things down, control the tempo and everything. I think tonight we all came together as a team, and we all played real good together. Even our bench players came in and contributed a whole lot, especially on defense."
   The second half was more of the same, as the Longhorns started the half on a 14-3 run to take a commanding 55-26 advantage with 3:52 left to go in the third quarter. Johnson County never looked back after that.
   "We didn't defend very well," Ensor said. "We let what was happening on the offensive end carry over to every aspect of our game, and we can't do that."
   Johnson County did a good job of keeping Unaka's dynamic trio in check. Sharp-shooters Aaron Dugger, Dustin Collins and Ben Cole were held to 14, 12 and 10 points, respectively.
   Dugger has recently exploded for forty-point ball outings, but Johnson County had a game plan for him by putting in rarely-used reserve Justin Allen.
   Allen performed admirably on defense, and did exactly what Atwood wanted him to do.
   "Justin Allen stepped in and guarded Aaron Dugger," Atwood said. "That was our game plan, to sort of shut him down and make those other boys beat us."
   Matt Cornett and Tommy Short also hit double figures for Johnson County. Cornett netted 15, while Short tallied 12.
   One bright spot for Unaka was Josh Blevins, who scored 11 points on the evening.
   It was a special win for Johnson County's first-year coach, who has a lot of respect for Unaka's program and for Coach Ensor.
   "The Ensor boys and Richard Thomas do as good a job as anybody in East Tennessee," Atwood said.
   Johnson County will look to continue its winning ways at Sullivan North tonight, while Unaka will try to bounce back playing at home against Class A power Cosby.
   "We've bounced back from these before, we'll see tomorrow night at eight O' clock. We're going to play another tough opponent. I have a lot of confidence in these guys. We need to learn from this and go on."
   Johnson County improves to 6-12 on the season, while Unaka falls to 5-8 overall.
   JV Boys
   Unaka 93
   Johnson County 68
   Unaka came out gunning in this one, as it led 63-28 at halftime and never looked back.
   Rusty Chambers topped Unaka with 26 points, while Daniel McInturff scored 14.
   Zac Trivette led Johnson County in scoring with a very impressive 30. Michael Lipford and Frank Icenhour finished with 10 for the Longhorns.