Cyclones withstand 'Horns' challenge for Watauga win

By Allen LaMountain

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- An earlier 24-point blowout loss to the Cyclones at Treadway Gym had the Johnson County Longhorns fired up to not let Elizabethton (17-3 overall, 10-0 Watauga Conference) dominate them on the Ray Shoun floor.
   On Friday night the 'Horns played inspired basketball, but with foul trouble looming over the heads of its starting backcourt, Johnson County was unable to stem the tide of an EHS 54-45 victory.
   "My guys played extremely hard tonight," said Longhorns head coach Austin Atwood. "I thought we played real well on defense, but we missed some free throws and a couple of putback attempts late in the game."
   Both Judd Shoun and Michael Lipford fouled out in this contest -- with Lipford drawing his fifth personal early in the fourth quarter -- and Shoun with just over a minute remaining, and that hurt the 'Horns chances since both were shooting well on the night.
   Cyclone forward Jordan Lambert opened the contest by scoring the first eight points of the night for 'Betsy with back-to-back treys and a pair of free throws, but Shoun and senior forward Tommy Short kept Johnson County afloat.
   The 'Horns (12-10, 5-5) led 13-12 after one period of play on Short's three-point buzzer-beater, but the Cyclones battled to take a 24-23 advantage going into the intermission.
   In the first half EHS shot 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) to the Longhorns' 6-for-26 (23.1 percent). Senior forward Matt Cornett particularly struggled as he was 0-for-10 from the floor at the break and had four of his shots rejected by EHS senior post Vince Redd.
   Without Cornett's scoring the 'Horns had to make a defensive game of it, and they succeeded with Atwood getting good effort's from Adam Johnson and Frank Icenhour inside.
   "Johnson County did a great job defensively against us," said Cyclones head coach Tony Hardin. "I didn't think that we played as good of on-the-ball defense as we are capable of. Johnson County came in very hyped up and played well, but we played smart at the end."
   A three-pointer by Shoun made it a 33-33 game with 3:04 remaining in the third period, but 'Betsy went on a short 6-1 run to close the period with a 39-34 advantage.
   Nathan Coffman provided the points in the run for 'Betsy after Brad Holtsclaw was whistled for his fourth personal foul and with Redd already on the bench with foul trouble as well.
   Short opened the fourth period with a basket for JC, but Holtsclaw came back to hit two free throws. Cornett then converted a three-point play to make it a 41-39 contest with 5:29 still left on the clock.
   A pair of free throws from Shoun once again knotted the game -- this time at 41-41 -- but Walter Brown canned both ends of a one-and-one situation to put EHS back on top.
   "It was important in this game to make every possession count," said Brown. "We have learned a lot from last year, so we don't panic in tough situations. We stay calm and run our plays, and do what seniors are supposed to do."
   After a 'Betsy timeout the Cyclones ran a play that was a dagger in the Longhorns heart as B.J. Miller knocked down a trey from the corner to give the Cyclones a 46-41 advantage and make it a two possession ballgame for JC.
   "We tried to spread things out and kind of make B.J. hard to find," Hardin explained. "He did a great job of getting open and B.J. just always seems to make those critical shots."
   Brown then made a running jumper after a steal to give EHS a 48-41 lead, but Johnson County wasn't finished yet as Cornett and Short answered for the 'Horns to cut the deficit to 48-45.
   Redd then stepped up for Elizabethton with a three-point play that seemed to break the backs of the Longhorns as it put Betsy on top by six at 51-45.
   Lambert finished with a game-high 16 points, while Redd added 12 and Miller 11.
   For the 'Horns, Shoun led the way with 14 points, while Short added 13 and Cornett bounced back with 12.