'Landers blister nets, top 'Horns

By Matt Hill

   The Cloudland Highlanders were like a bottle of Tabasco sauce Monday night. They spiced things up with their hot shooting.
   The Highlanders were on fire in their 78-60 win over the Johnson County Longhorns at Sonny Smith Gym.
   The Highlanders didn't start out that hot, as Johnson County led 15-7 after the first quarter.
   After that, it was all Cloudland.
   "We started out slow there, but after the first three minutes we started getting back on defense, playing defense, and playing hard," Cloudland head coach Ned Smith said.
   Tommy Short was burning the Highlanders early, scoring seven in the first quarter. But Cloudland put the clamps down on him and the rest of the Longhorns following the first period.
   Cloudland showed in the second quarter why they have become a force to be reckoned with. The 'Landers took the lead for good at 23-21 with 2:59 left to go in the frame on a bucket by Ricky Whitehead.
   By halftime, Cloudland was ahead 36-27 and well on its way to a victory.
   Johnson County assistant coach Ryan Arnold was disappointed with how things went following the first quarter.
   "We've done that a couple of times this year, and that's not a good sign for us," Arnold said. "We come out strong, and then it's like we give up and we can't do it.
   "We can't put a whole game together. We'll put a quarter here and a quarter there together, but as far as four together we just haven't been able to do that all year except against Unaka."
   Johnson County cut Cloudland's lead down to 49-43 with 3:05 left to go in third quarter, but Cloudland then went on an 8-0 run that was sparked by post players Robby Tolley and Whitehead.
   Whitehead finished with 13, while Tolley netted 11.
   "I thought our post players played good," Ricky, Robby and Brandon Odom squared up and put it in the hole."
   Cloudland was ahead 59-46 after the third quarter, and never blinked after that."
   Cloudland received a big night from Kevin Jones. He had 16 points, and hit two trifectas.
   "He's been shooting real well all season, but I thought he was in a coma tonight," Smith said. "He was knocking them down. He did a good job."
   Jones definitely took advantage of some open looks.
   "I've been practicing those shots all week," Jones said. "I knew they would leave me open because I had tons of them last game. I just knocked them down."
   Kevin's twin brother, Kyle Jones, heated up late for Cloudland. He scored all 12 of his points in the second half
   "Kyle got into some early foul trouble," Smith said. "When he came back in the second half he played real well."
   The Jones' combined to score Cloudland's first 13 points in the third quarter.
   Arnold admitted the Jones boys were trouble for the Longhorns Monday night.
   "Those kids are two great players," Arnold said. "Kevin came out in the third quarter, and I guess he had nine in a row probably. We shut him down then his brother, (heck) he hit four in a row, too. What do you do? They're two good players. They're probably close to the top in East Tennessee right now."
   Matt Cornett, Short and Chad Reece all scored in double figures for Johnson County. Cornett netted 15, Short tallied 12, and Reece poured in 10 for the Longhorns.
   Johnson County will be back in action at home tonight against Happy Valley, while the Highlanders next game will be a big showdown with Unaka on Friday.
   That game will probably go a long way in deciding the Watauga Valley Conference championship.
   "Unaka's got a great team," Smith said. "They're well-coached. Aaron Dugger and Ben Cole, they shoot it real well. They've got a good ball team."
   It's a game that Kevin Jones is looking forward to.
   "It's going to be crazy," stated Jones. "It's going to be wild."