East tops Johnson County

By Marvin Birchfield

   BLUFF CITY--The main objective is to hit the bulls-eye, as Sullivan East showed its ace marksman skills from long range in a 59-52 victory over Johnson County on Tuesday night.
   The Patriots knocked down 11 three-point goals on the evening, along with sinking 13 of 15 from the foul-line in the final quarter to seal the win.
   "We're not very big, but we can shoot it," said Sullivan East coach John Dyer. "In the last 10 minutes, I thought we defended really well. They had some key steals and break aways with some close shots toward the end."
   Johnson County led 16-12 at the end of the first period, after going on an 8-3 run in the final four minutes.
   Judd Shoun led the Longhorns with seven of his 16-point total during the first quarter, as a three-pointer with 1:18 gave Johnson County a four-point advantage.
   The Longhorns went up by as many as 11 during the second period, after a couple of baskets were made by Justin Genaille, and a scoop shot off the drive from Gary Evans scored.
   Genaille led the Longhorns in scoring with 19 points, as he poured in eight of the 10 points scored by Johnson County during the second.
   All of the Patriots' points came from behind the arc in the first period, and they continued to ring up the threes during the second quarter.
   Sullivan East nailed eight three-point shots, with four of them coming from Wes Peer, which enabled the Patriots to pull even by the end of the half, 27-27.
   "We knew they would be ready for senior night. John dyer is one of the best coaches in Upper East Tennessee," said Johnson County coach Austin Atwood. "We had a couple of stretches where we didn't score offensively, but all and all our kids played well."
   Johnson County came out and made a 10-2 run to start the second half.
   A bucket plus the foul inside from Frank Icenhour gave Johnson County a 38-29 advantage with 2:59 left in the third period.
   "We didn't guard the perimeter well, and they hit some big shots," said Atwood. "What this team lacks is being able to step it up one more notch, but I think we might be able to do that come next week."
   The Patriots found success from the outside once again in the final minute, as a three from Hunter Crowder cut the deficit to four points heading into the last quarter of play.
   Sullivan East took a quick lead after Dusty Craig made a steal and dunk, and drew a foul for a three-point play.
   The lead was short-lived, though, as a couple of free throws from Genaille and drive inside the paint by Shoun made it 44-41 with six minutes left.
   "We're stepping up every game, and our post players are stepping, too," said Genaille. "If we could do better job rebounding and get some more people scoring than just besides two, because just two people are not going to win you many ball games, .... We need to have more people scoring."
   Sullivan East enjoyed a phenomenal performance from the foul line in the final period.
   "We came out flat in the second half, but Johnson County is a good team and will do well in the tournament," said Dyer. "We've struggled at times from the free-throw line and haven't been able to close out several games. I thought we finished this game strong."
   Johnson County trailed by only one point with five minutes to go, when Genaille made a shot down low to put the score at 47-46.
   It was all Sullivan East down the stretch, however, as Donavan Dye nailed two huge three-point goals to put the icing on the cake for the Patriots.
   Both Dye and Peer led Sullivan East in scoring with 13 points apiece, while Craig also ended in double-digits for the Patriots with 11.
   "We've struggled the past few weeks, and had some close losses, but we've pulled through the past few games and it's been all team work," said Dyer. "We've got the tournament coming up and have some momentum going in. We're working good together right now."
   Lady Patriots 42
   Lady Longhorns 37
   The Lady Patriots were a little too strong underneath, as they bulled and banged their way to victory.
   Sullivan East controlled the low post all night long, which led to some easy baskets off rebounds along with a solid defense late in the action.
   "Our strength has been inside all year, and if you put in half of the points that we missed inside the paint, then we kind of win it going away," said Sullivan East girls coach Laura Vaughn. "Give Johnson County credit. They kept on the pressure from hitting some big outside shots, which made it a close game."
   Johnson County wrestled the Patriots to an 11-11 tie after the first period of action.
   The Longhorns poured in the three-point goals by knocking down three of them, with two coming from Billie Hurd and another from Brittany Cole.
   Sullivan East became strong inside during the second period, as it outscored the Longhorns 15-7.
   "They're post heavy and we're post light," said Lady Longhorn coach Eric Crabtree. "If you look at our team, we're more guard heavy, and it was just a hard match for us tonight.
   "They have physical posts and we just didn't have anyone to match up with that in height or weight."
   Johnson County trailed by only two points after Hurd nailed her third three-point basket of the night.
   The Longhorns fell apart in the final minute and a half, when Sullivan East went on an 8-2 run to take a 26-18 lead at halftime.
   "Toward the end of the first half we put all guards out there for ball and clock control, but instead we make two quick turnovers and the lead bumps up to 26-18," said Crabtree. "We never came back from that, and in the second half we got good open looks, but we just weren't hitting our shots."
   Sullivan East continued to take advantage inside, as Katie Miller made a putback off a rebound to start the third quarter.
   Miller led the Patriots in scoring with 11 points, while Kristen Ervin finished with 10.
   "Pretty much all we have is our inside game -- our outside game is not that good," said Miller. "Our inside game has carried us all season, and this helps ending the season with a win heading into Saturday."
   Johnson County trailed by as many as 11 during the third period, but a late quarter rally pulled the Longhorns within six to end the period.
   The Longhorns were able to cut into the lead even more, when Elena Owens hit two three-point goals to start the fourth quarter.
   Owens finished as the Longhorns' leading scorer with 12 points, and Hurd ended the night with 11 points.
   "As a team we're growing and coming into closer ball games, and hopefully one day we'll be able to close in that gap we have," said Owens. "I was struggling offensively, so I just went out there and played defense." "I finally hit the two threes late, and I felt like that was my obligation being a team leader."
   Johnson County was unable to close the gap from that point, as the inside game and rebounds from the Patriots held off the Longhorn charge.
   "We had several people out tonight, and also, with it being senior night, it is sometimes hard to get up," said Vaughn. "We just challenged them, and luckily we came away with it in the end."