EHS towering over Watauga Conference

It was billed as a showdown between two of the Watauga Conference's elite boys teams, but fans at Treadway Gym on Tuesday night found out that the Elizabethton Cyclones right now are head and shoulders above the Johnson County Longhorns and the rest of the league at this point of the season.
   The Longhorns shot 13-of-44 from the field in a 57-33 defeat to Elizabethton in a game that saw the boys from Mountain City make only four field goals in the first half.
   "It's a little embarrassing," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "We've just got to come back and play. We've got a big game Friday with Erwin, then we've got four-in-a-row next week. We don't have any time to let this get us down."
   While the Longhorns didn't have their A-game going on Tuesday night, they just ran into a stingy Elizabethton defense that is one of the finest around.
   Atwood gave all the credit to a the Cyclone defense for the poor Longhorn shooting.
   "They've got a good defense," he said. "They've got a great defense. When you've got somebody like Vince Redd down in the middle, you can take chances out front."
   Johnson County's offensive guns were shut down in the game, as the Longhorns failed to put anybody in double digits on the night.
   "Everything we do begins with defense," EHS head coach Tony Hardin said. "That's the nice thing right now, is that these guys are embracing the fact that to be a champion we've got to be a great defensive team. I thought tonight we did that."
   One positive the Longhorns could take from this contest was the play of their defense, particularly in the first half.
   Despite making just four shots from the floor in the first half, the Longhorns only trailed 24-9 at the break.
   "I really felt like in the first half that our defense played great," Atwood said. "We had to start a post player that is 5-9 against Redd, and we really did it for offensive purposes. We felt like we needed to get some quick scores. I really felt like our defense was as well as we had played most part in the first half. We held them to 24 points, and held them to 10 in the first quarter. We did our job on the defensive end.
   "We didn't make a few early shots, and Redd did an excellent job of staying on his feet and blocking a few shots early. Part of our game plan was to take it to him, and let him block a few, and keep him down on the post. We were really wanting to work the high post. We were just going to have to hit a few outside shots. We just didn't do what we planned on."
   The Longhorns seem to match-up well with the Cyclones as far as style of play, but Atwood thought execution was the key for EHS winning this basketball game in such convincing fashion.
   "We didn't execute our game plan," he said. "We've got to work on executing what we want to do to beat people. What we did tonight is not what we practiced on or planned on."
   However, Johnson County was going up against a team that hadn't lost a Watauga Conference regular season game since joining the league last year.
   Elizabethton is very athletic, and showed it could very well end up in Murfreesboro at the end of the season.
   "It's hard when you're playing somebody with the athletes that they have," Atwood said. "That's a very good defense."
   With the Longhorns now 8-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play, their chances for a conference title seem to be out the door. Now the plan is to stay in the upper echelon in the conference to get a good district seeding.
   "We've got to stay out of fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh place," Atwood said. "We've got to keep fighting for third and hope we get a few big wins.
   Hardin still feels this Johnson County team can give the Cyclones a tough game on Jan. 31 in Mountain City.
   "I think they're a very good basketball team," he said. "Vince did a great job tonight defending the rim, and I think they got them a little frustrated. When you don't see the ball go in the hole a lot, sometimes it hurts the rest of your game. I think that was the key. We just did a great job defensively. Very easy, we could go up there and they could end up beating us if we don't play inspired defense like we did tonight. They're a good basketball team, very good."