Longhorns best upset-minded Raiders

By Matt Hill

   KINGSPORT--The Johnson County Longhorn boys basketball team never trailed after the first quarter Tuesday night against Sullivan North.
   They almost did at the end of the contest.
   The Longhorns (16-9, 8-5) raced out to a 15-point second-quarter advantage, then watched a much-improved Golden Raider team almost come all the way back before Johnson County eventually left the gym with a 52-47 win.
   "They've really improved over the season I think," Longhorn junior guard Michael Lipford said about the North squad that lost to Johnson County by 16 points last month in Mountain City.
   Sullivan North (8-15, 5-7) also stepped up its play in the second half of Tuesday's game, and in the end, forced the Longhorns to raise their level of basketball.
   After Johnson County led 30-15 late in the first half, the Golden Raiders stormed all the way back by toughening up on the defensive end, and by nailing five second half threes.
   The final three by North, which was hit by Kevin Arnold with 1:15 to go in regulation, cut the Johnson County advantage down to 49-47.
   After stopping Johnson County on the Longhorns' next possession, Sullivan North's Lance Carter put up a shot attempt to tie the game.
   Carter missed the shot, and Lipford came up with the rebound.
   With North having a foul to give, the Raiders fouled Lipford and Johnson County then took the ball from half-court.
   "I knew the things everybody had been shooting, they had been shooting long, and I thought it was going to come off the backboard and I just got it," Lipford said. "Coach told me if you get just run down court, because they were going to draw the foul. There wasn't much left in the game, and I was just glad I was there."
   On the inbounds play, Longhorn point guard Judd Shoun took it to the hole, and was fouled on a dazzling layup to pretty much seal the deal.
   Shoun added a free-throw, and the Longhorns won what was a big game as far as district tournament seeding goes.
   The Longhorns kept their hopes for third place alive. A loss might have meant the fifth seed for the district.
   For the second game in row, Johnson County made the plays when needed, which shows that the team keeps its cool when the going gets tough.
   "This has been good," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "We've had a couple of close ones lately. We're fortunate to come out of here with a win."
   Shoun definitely made a big play for the Longhorns to ice it, but he admitted the team went into a lull that it almost couldn't get out of.
   "I think we realized a little bit too late what was going on," Shoun said. "We waited until it was about a five, maybe four point game, and we realized we had waited a little bit too late to put the pressure on them like we thought we should have there in the second half."
   Shoun led all scorers with 21 points, while Matt Cornett added 16 for Johnson County. Michael Buchanan and C.J. Minnick topped the Raiders with 14.
   Lady Raiders 47
   Lady Longhorns 33
   The Lady Longhorns kept it close in this one, but North pulled away at the end to avenge an earlier loss to Johnson County.
   Johnson County was within five points at 34-29 with 5:13 to go in regulation, but the Lady Raiders outscored the visitors 13-4 the rest of the way.
   With the Lady Longhorns still missing Elena Owens and Jenny Tugman, it was a valiant effort by Johnson County.
   "We all played good in spurts," Johnson County guard Nikki Davidson said. "Sure we all had our bad times where we were missing a lot of easy shots, but it's coming together from where we had to rebuild, and I think it will get better every game."
   Davidson, who topped the Lady Longhorns with 14 points, has really stepped up with all the injured players being out.
   Davidson hopes this whole Johnson County team can step up and do something special in the upcoming District 1-AA Tournament.
   "Right now all we're focusing on is what's going to happen in the next two weeks, because we really want to do well in the tournament," she said. "We know we're a better team than what our record shows."
   Ryann Tillman also hit double figures for Johnson County, as she finished with 11 points. Lindsay Collins paced North with 19.