'Horns bring end to season for Warriors

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Johnson County basketball players Matt Cornett and Michael Lipford sat out a good part of Monday night's District 1-AA boys quarterfinal game with Happy Valley due to foul trouble.
   They made the most of their time in the contest.
   Cornett finished with 19 points with Lipford adding 16 to lead the Longhorns to a hard-fought 51-40 victory over the Warriors at Treadway Gym.
   The victory gives the Longhorns a berth in next week's Region 1-AA Tournament, and brings them to a semifinal date with the Sullivan Central Cougars on Wednesday night.
   "It was do or die for me," Cornett said. "It was my last game in a high school uniform if I didn't step up. Charlie Bayless is a great coach, and he always has a great strategy. He's hard to play against. He knows how to beat teams.
   "We just out-manned them. We're a little more physical than they are. We just had to step up and come to play tonight. Tonight was the one I think that really made a difference in where we go this year. If we lost and didn't play good, that was it. But I think we're going to be tough to beat the rest of the tournament."
   Happy Valley controlled the tempo for three quarters, and only trailed 30-26 going into the fourth.
   Lipford and Cornett were doing most of the scoring for Johnson County, and the Warriors took advantage of their foul trouble.
   Happy Valley did a good job keeping everybody else in check, as the Warriors were giving the Longhorns fits defensively.
   "We kind of got worried, because we knew we were in foul trouble," Lipford said. "We knew if we did go back in, we would have to limit our fouls. We weren't really worried. We knew we were going to come out fired up and playing hard."
   Lipford may have provided the play that gave the Longhorns all the momentum in the fourth quarter, when he was fouled while making a basket, and then converted the three-point play.
   That made the score 35-28 with 5:30 to go in the game.
   The Longhorns also stepped up at the foul line down the stretch. Johnson County went 15-of-18 from the charity stripe in the final period.
   That consistency at the line helped carry Johnson County to a 49-36 advantage late, and the Longhorns avenged a loss they suffered just one week ago to the Warriors.
   "We played a good first half, and then in the second half they outplayed us," Happy Valley head coach Charlie Bayless said. "It's the final score that counts. They shot their foul shots good."
   With Cornett and Lipford in foul trouble, the Longhorns just tried to stay afloat until they could get the duo back into the basketball game.
   The Longhorns did the job on the defensive end, and that helped secure Johnson County a slight lead before the fourth quarter explosion.
   "We definitely didn't want to get behind to them, because I'll tell you what, they're as good as anybody in the state when you get behind them,"
   Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "Charlie does a great job of holding it, and making you play their style. But we felt like we had better athletes from one end of the bench to the other. If we could just get to that style, I felt like our athletes were going to play harder and pull it out. I was going to leave it up to them. I wasn't going to try and make any coaching strategies. I left it up to my players tonight and they did it."
   One Longhorn player that really stepped up after having a rough game early was Judd Shoun. Shoun was scoreless through three quarters, but scored all six of his points in the fourth and provided another spark for Johnson County.
   As for Lipford, the defensive specialist might have played his best all-around game as a Longhorn.
   "I think it is the best game I've played, but it's not going to be the best," Lipford said. "I'm going to come back and play even harder Wednesday night."
   The Warriors were led in scoring by Andrew Bowman's 14-point effort. Bowman also had six rebounds on the night.
   It was a valiant effort by Happy Valley, a group that has now played the third-place team in the Watauga Conference to three tough games, and won one of them.
   "We have some good ones," Bayless said of the rivalry between Johnson County and Happy Valley. "Both games in the regular season were very close games. When you play that type of ball, every turnover sticks out like a sore thumb. We made some turnovers in the first half and we didn't shoot well, either."
   Sullivan Central 66
   Unicoi County 37
   The Cougars were tied at 18-18 with the Blue Devils late in the second quarter, but then a 19-0 run sealed the deal.
   Matt Dunford led the Cougars with 26, while Michael Price topped Unicoi with 11 points.
   Volunteer 49
   Sullivan North 34
   Volunteer was the only lower-seeded team to win on Monday night, as Chucky Lindholm had 23 points in the four vs. five matchup.
   The Golden Raiders didn't have one player in double figures.
   Volunteer takes on Elizabethton at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.