Longhorn teams make Volunteer work for victories

By Marvin Birchfield
MOUNTAIN CITY--The finishing touches were what the Longhorns lacked on Tuesday night, as another hard-fought Watauga Conference battle ended with Volunteer pulling away for 60-46 win.
Johnson County stayed neck and neck through three quarters of action before becoming stagnated at the offensive end, and produced only two points in the final period.
"We didn't score at the end, and we didn't keep them from scoring, so you're not going to be able to hold them when you do that," said Johnson County coach Austin Atwood. "Our effort was there, but we just need to learn how to finish games."
The two teams rank at the opposite end of the standings in the Watauga Conference, but each time they've played this season you'd might have never guessed it.
Johnson County led after the first period 13-12, as Judd Shoun and Gary Evans knocked down the three from outside.
"We just lost our energy toward the end of the game. After Jesse Jenkins went down, it really hurt us," said Shoun. "We've had so many losses we could have easily won, but now we just have to be able to turn it up another notch."
Shoun finished the night to lead the Longhorns with 22 points, while Justin Genaille added 16 points.
The Longhorns extended their lead to 20-16 with 4:35 left in the first half, after Shoun made a drive drawing the foul for three-point play.
"We've had two close games this year, and both times anybody could have won the game," said Volunteer coach Todd Whittemore. "Johnson County has a tough ball club and Atwood always has them prepared to play."
The one similarity both clubs have is the leadership of a player who can take control of the game.
Johnson County features its point playmaker in Shoun, and Volunteer with the big man inside, Charles Lindholm.
Volunteer made a run toward the end of the half to go up 29-24, when Lindholm went on a scoring frenzy to post 11 out of its last 13 points. He finished with 28 on the night.
"This was a tough game and this is one of our toughest game to come and play on the schedule," said Lindholm. "We weren't aggressive enough in the first period, but in the fourth we were really aggressive and started picking it up."
The Longhorns came out ready to play the second half, as they scored the first seven points of the third period.
Two free-throws coming from Shoun off the offensive boards gave Johnson County a two-point advantage with 6:18 left.
Johnson County's post man Jon Stout fouled out with 1:45 left in the third period.
This was a blow to the Longhorns' defense inside, as Lindholm executed the alley-oop off a pass from Jay Hughes toward the end of the quarter.
A running jumper from Shoun at the end of the third quarter pulled the Longhorns within two for the final period.
Volunteer captured their first two baskets off of steals to start the fourth.
A steal from Jay Hughes gave the Falcons a 50-44 lead with 4:55 left to play.
"We have four sophomore guards against a top-ranked club, and they sometimes have trouble with the pressure," said Atwood. "We rushed our shot at the end a little, and they got some steals and easy baskets."
Johnson County's only field goal came when Chris McCloud made a long pass underneath to Justin Genaille.
The Longhorns were unsuccessful in knocking down a shot in the final four minutes, as Volunteer capitalized off its defensive pressure and free throws.
"We held them to two-points in the final period, and I was proud of how my defense stepped up and played," said Whittemore. "It was a good effort and we came away with most of the loose balls."
Lady Falcons 57
Lady Longhorns 50
It looked like the Lady Longhorns were headed to getting their second big win in less than a week, but a wild finish saw Volunteer rally for the victory.
Johnson County hasn't had a lot to smile about to start the year, but recently it's been gaining the confidence to compete with anyone.
"These girls played hard tonight, and I thought they even played well enough to win," said Johnson County coach Eric Crabtree. "We had too many turnovers in the fourth quarter, plus none of the breaks went our way."
On Tuesday, the Longhorns gave the Falcons all they could handle, only to see it slip away in the final four and a half minutes.
After falling behind in the early going, 9-5, the Longhorns came back to take control off a three-point goal by Elena Owens and some solid foul shooting by Heather McCloud and Laura Peters.
Johnson County led 14-9 at the end of the first period, but the Lady Falcons made a run at the end of the first half to take a 26-25 advantage.
The Longhorns were in a close battle through the third period, and in the final minutes they converted a couple of three-pointers from Billie Hudd and Brittany Cole to take a 42-38 lead.
A shot off a drive from April McCloud along the baseline gave Johnson County a five-point advantage with just over five minutes remaining.
The game's momentum started to spiral downward for the Longhorns after some confusion on a basket up through the bottom of the goal was declared a score.
Johnson County came back to strike with a field goal of its own, but by this time it was decided that the bucket on the other end was no good.
Both field goals were wiped off, with Johnson County getting the ball, but the Longhorns were never quite the same team from that point on.
"We never got in rhythm after that and only scored three points from then on," said Crabtree. "I feel like they got the right call, but they just didn't go about the right way doing it.
"We just couldn't overcome all the free-throws attempts they hit at the end."