Patriots slip by 'Horns

By Matt Hill

   MOUNTAIN CITY--Having your girlfriend break up with you on Valentines Day couldn't be more heartbreaking than what the Johnson County boys basketball team went through Thursday night.
   Johnson County's Zac Trivette missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds to secure the Sullivan East Patriots a 63-60 victory over the Longhorns at Ray Shoun Gym.
   The play was set up when Adam Hughes missed the second of two free-throws with four seconds to go. East forced a jumpball on the rebound, but the possession arrow favored Johnson County.
   That didn't give the Longhorns much time to do anything, and Trivette put up what Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood called a "desperation three."
   "It was done more out of desperation," Atwood said.
   But Atwood says it was the second half that beat the Longhorns. Johnson County led 28-18 at the intermission.
   "We didn't play well in the second half," Atwood said. "We got in a little foul trouble. We just got outplayed in the second half."
   The Longhorns did not give up down the stretch. East was ahead 60-55 in the final minute before a big three-pointer by Matt Cornett cut the Patriots lead down to 60-58 with 24 seconds to go.
   That's when East freshman Dusty Elmore took over. Patriot star Adam Hughes missed two free-throws, but Elmore came up with a big rebound and was fouled.
   Elmore sank both free-throws to give the Patriots a 62-58 advantage
   "My freshman point guard is going to be awfully good," Sullivan East head coach John Dyer said about Elmore.
   Matt Eggers hit a basket with five seconds left to make it a 62-60 East lead, but that's as close as the Longhorns got.
   "We allowed them to make the plays," Atwood said. "That's one team that I feel like man-to-man we're probably better than. We just didn't do the things we needed to do."
   Johnson County came out of the gate on fire. Starting mostly seniors, the Longhorns jumped out to a 12-8 lead after the end of the first quarter.
   The Longhorns continued their hot shooting in the second quarter to pull out on top 28-16 in the final seconds of the first half.
   The Patriots scored right before halftime to go into the locker room down 28-18.
   "We can live with the first half," Atwood said.
   The third quarter was key for the Patriots. Sullivan East used some quick baskets by Aaron Burnette to start the quarter on a 10-2 run.
   Johnson County was only ahead 30-28 at that point, and by the end of the third quarter the game was tied at 39-39.
   The lead went back and forth in the fourth quarter, but East went up for good at 53-51 with 3:10 to go on a bucket by Seth Hayes.
   "Johnson County played great in the first half," Dyer said. "We got frustrated, but we came back in the second half and played really well."
   Burnette finished the night with 25 points to top East, while Hughes netted 15.
   Cornett led the Longhorn charge with 16 points despite being plagued with foul trouble. Tommy Short, Chad Reece and Eggers had 11, 10 and nine, respectively for Johnson County.
   Thursday night was senior night for the Longhorns. Eggers, Reece, Justin Allen and Tim Turnmire were all honored before the game.
   Atwood is proud of all of them.
   "Eggers is the heart of the team," Atwood said. "He plays as hard as anybody in East Tennessee. Chad's like a freshman out there. It's the first time he's played in his whole life. I wish he was just a sophomore or a junior.
   "Tim Turnmire and Justin Allen are just a couple of football guys that I talked out into playing. They knew their role was as practice players, but they've come in everyday and have practiced as hard as anybody we've got."
   These players and the rest of the Longhorns will be back in action at Sullivan North High School Monday against Volunteer in the first round of the District 1-AA Tournament.
   Sullivan East 70
   Johnson County 45
   The Lady Patriots used a third quarter explosion by Katie O' Dell to pull away from the Lady Longhorns.
   Sullivan East led 31-18 at halftime, but O' Dell scored 15 of her 29 points in the third quarter. By the end of the third stanza, the Lady Patriots were out in front 57-29.
   Sullivan East head coach Mickey Forrester thought O' Dell really took over.
   "Seniors are suppose to do that," Forrester said. "That's probably the last thing I said to her when she left the locker room. She's capable of doing that. She's got the talent and the ability to do that. She did a great job."
   Johnson County head coach Eric Crabtree had nothing but praise for O' Dell.
   "She's a good ball player," Crabtree said. "Defensive rebounds, getting the ball, pushing the ball up the floor. She did as much as she could to hurt us in the third quarter."
   Sullivan East had its way on boards in this contest, which is something that disappointed Crabtree.
   "That was the difference," Crabtree said. "I really thought we didn't play that bad, except for rebounding. We had to score on every shot we took, and they would get two or three shots. If they didn't hit their first shot, they would get two or three shots at it anyway. That killed us."
   Lee Ann Townsend led Johnson County with 10 points.
   The Lady Longhorn seniors were also honored on this night. LeAnn Townsend, Jessica Townsend and Tasha Lunceford have guided the 'Horns throughout the last few seasons.
   "They're three girls who give their heart into the game," Crabtree said. "They play hard, and they want to do things to help the team. I'm proud of them. I just hope that we can prolong the season Saturday, and hopefully we can send them out with a bang.
   Forrester was also recognized before the game for his accomplishments at Sullivan East. Thursday night was his final regular season game.
   "It's been great," Forrester said. "I have really, really enjoyed it. But it's time for me to move on, and let the young people that know the game better than I do to take over."
   Crabtree, a first-year coach, hopes he can have similar success to what Forrester has had.
   "It's always good to go against someone who has had the longevity, the success, and the ability to get his players to a higher level year in and year out," Crabtree said. "As a young guy, you just hope you can have half the success a guy like him has had."
   The Lady Longhorns will be back in action Saturday against Hampton in the District 1-AA tournament."