'Horns finish strong  to defeat Blue Devils

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MOUNTAIN CITY--For the second Friday night in a row, the Johnson County boys basketball team was in a dogfight at Ray Shoun Gym going into the fourth quarter.
   And just like they did last weekend, the Longhorns stepped up when they needed to the most.
   The Longhorns outscored Unicoi County 23-10 in the final period to secure a 60-43 victory over the Blue Devils in Watauga Conference action.
   "I really felt like we toughened up on the defensive end, and we got some scores when we needed to hitting that high post," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "But our defense just played excellent again."
   Unicoi led 28-27 early in the third quarter, as a scrappy Blue Devil bunch kept making life miserable for Johnson County.
   The Longhorns regained the lead, and held a 37-33 advantage after three periods.
   With both teams in foul trouble going into the fourth quarter, Johnson County adapted to the situation better. Unicoi trailed 38-36 with seven minutes left, but big buckets and huge free-throws proved to be the difference.
   The Longhorns received the brunt of the fourth quarter offense from Judd Shoun and Matt Cornett. Shoun poured in six of his ten points in the frame, while Cornett had seven in the fourth, including four free-throws.
   Cornett led all scorers on the night with 21. Cornett felt like the team had something to prove after suffering a 57-33 loss to Elizabethton on Tuesday night.
   "I wanted to do it for the fans tonight," he said. "I really felt sorry for them that we put them through that the other night, having to go down there and pay $4 to watch that. I hope they don't get discouraged, because that's not the way we are going to play the rest of the season. That was a one-time event right there, and we don't plan on that happening again."
   The Longhorns once again started slowly in this contest, as Unicoi County led 14-11 after one period.
   Unlike the Elizabethton game, the Longhorns recovered with a 14-0 run to start the second quarter.
   "I think we were playing a little cautious," Atwood said. "I thought we passed up a lot of open jumpers. I'll tell you what, John (English) did a darn good job of getting his team ready to step in and take a charge, and we had to adjust to that in the second half. Luckily we did, and we hit a few big shots."
   In addition to Cornett and Shoun, Tommy Short and Michael Lipford also played well as part of the quartet known as the "Big Four." Short scored 14 and Lipford had eight on the night.
   "We expect a lot out of the big four," Atwood said. "They did a lot better job tonight."
   Michael Price topped Unicoi County with 16 points, and hit four three-pointers. Chris Brown added 10 for the Blue Devils.
   The Longhorns improve to 9-7 overall and 3-2 in the Watauga heading into next week's games with Cloudland, Volunteer, Unaka and Sullivan North.
   Despite the win, the Longhorns see room for improvement.
   "We just can't put a full-game together right now," Atwood said. "We'll play good on offense and play no defense, and we'll play great defense and not be able to put the ball in the hole."
   Said Cornett: "We really didn't play to our potential again tonight. We still haven't peaked yet this season."