'Horns too much for Volunteer

By Matt Hill

   MOUNTAIN CITY--It couldn't have been any sweeter for the Johnson County boys basketball seniors.
   Matt Cornett, Jason Poteet, Adam Johnson and Tommy Short each had a senior night to remember, as the Longhorns defeated the Volunteer Falcons 79-65 Friday at Ray Shoun Gym in a battle between two of the Watauga Conference's elite teams.
   It was especially a terrific night for Cornett, who had his biggest game of the season on Friday.
   Cornett scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, had some dazzling assists, and was a force inside.
   "This is the way I wanted it," Cornett said. "Last conference game in this building. I love the crowd, and love everything about this school. That's the way I wanted to go out.
   "All the seniors, I've known these guys, I'm close to them. That's the way I wanted to end our conference games up here at home."
   The Longhorns made sure in the second quarter that senior night would be a great night for the Longhorns.
   Johnson County used a 23-9 second quarter spurt to pull out to a 43-27 lead at the intermission.
   Sophomore Michael Lipford came up big in that quarter by scoring all seven of his points during that frame, but Cornett dominated inside by going to the foul line six times in the quarter.
   Cornett finished the half eight-of-eight from the charity stripe.
   The Longhorns were also keyed early on by Poteet, who hit two big three-pointers in the opening minutes to set the tone.
   This is Poteet's first year of varsity basketball, and he couldn't have asked for a better way to go out.
   "We've been playing together since elementary school pretty much, and all through middle school," Poteet said. "This was my first year coming out, and all of them wanted me to come out saying that I would help them. I just wanted to help the team out. I got out here and I love it. I wish I wouldn't of quit."
   As for Cornett's performance, he didn't seem to be surprised that this was the night the three-sport star was going to shine.
   "I've had zero confidence in my shot for the last two weeks," he said. "I haven't been shooting the ball, and really been kind of staying out of the offense. I haven't had a lot of confidence. I've just stayed up here shooting a lot lately and trying to get my confidence. I shot a lot before the game today, we were out of school. I think it helped, because I came up here and I just felt it tonight."
   Propelled by three Poteet treys, the Longhorns nailed seven shots from downtown on the night.
   Four of them came in the first half, a half that Cornett and the Longhorns were proud of.
   "It's one of the better halves we have played this year," Cornett said. "It's just a little bit of what we are capable of. We really haven't come through in the big games, but tonight was a big game for us. Our seniors stepped up and did what seniors do."
   The second half became very physical, as there were several technical fouls and a player ejection. But Johnson County remained in control by doing the job on the defensive end.
   Junior Judd Shoun continued his solid play with 18 points on the evening. Poteet added nine for the Longhorns.
   Jacob Frazier topped Volunteer with 22 points, while all-state candidate Chucky Lindholm poured in 13.
   The Johnson County win avenges an earlier defeat to the Falcons, and also gives the Longhorns their first win over one of the elite teams in the Watauga Conference this year.
   Johnson County was 0-5 combined coming into Friday's game against Volunteer, Elizabethton and Central, but improved the second time it played those teams.
   This win could be huge for Johnson County, as it might go a long way in ensuring third place and a chance to stay out of Elizabethton's bracket in the upcoming District 1-AA Tournament.
   "It felt good to finally beat one of the big teams, because everybody in the papers have been saying we can compete with the little schools, but can't compete with the big schools," Poteet said. "It feels real good to finally prove everybody wrong and prove that we can play.
   Said Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood: "We've not peaked yet, but we're on our way up the ladder. We're getting to that point I believe. The boys are believing in it.