'Dogs, 'Horns  knocked from  tournament

By Michelle Pope

   Sullivan North and Unicoi County prevailed in the Watauga Conference tournament held at Sullivan Central Saturday night, with the Raiders knocking down Johnson County 59-47, and Unicoi County ending Hampton's season with a 55-47 victory.
   Hampton stayed a step ahead of the Blue Devils until three minutes into the final quarter, when Ryan Corn and Thomas Evely dealt the 'Dogs a heavy blow with an 11-0 run that left Unicoi in a four-point advantage with a minute and 38 seconds left in the game.
   Corn sunk two in a row from outside while Evely put up two Hunter Sparks passes and scored a free throw. Hampton began passing out foul shots, sending the Devils to the line five times in the last minute and twelve seconds.
   "We probably took a few shots that I wish we hadn't. We were patient, but we could have been a little more patient," said Hampton coach Bud Hazelwood. "We couldn't find Corn when he went to the zone. Basically, we let the two players that we knew we had to stop, Corn and (Jonathan) Grindstaff, we let them through."
   Travis Smith dropped two treys for Hampton in the first quarter to help them to the 11-9 lead at the buzzer. Grindstaff put in nine points in the second quarter to bring the Devils within one point by halftime.
   Hampton had rebuilt a seven-point lead by the end of the third, with eight points by Smith and seven from Adam Miller. However, in the fourth, the Devils put 22 points through the hoop, while the Bulldogs only mustered seven.
   "We didn't have that the first half," said Unicoi coach John English of his team's offensive drive in the fourth quarter. "It was pretty much just Jonathan offensively, and then some other guys stepped in offensively, and it really made it tough for them to guard Jonathan because they had to concentrate on the people outside."
   Smith led the 'Dogs with 24 points, followed by Miller with 11, and Zack Trivette with ten. For the Blue Devils, Grindstaff scored a game-high 26, and Corn added 13 points.
   "We just didn't play like we're capable of playing," Hazelwood said. "We're a tight team, and we've proved it all year. When we shoot well, we can beat anybody we play. When we don't shoot well, we struggle."
   With a tied score after the first five minutes in Johnson County's match against Sullivan North, Dammion Thomas put in four points to help boost the Raiders to a 13-7 lead. Judd Shoun changed things for the Longhorns with a three-point goal with four seconds left in the quarter to bring his team within three, but C.J. Minnick stole his thunder by hurling the ball from 50 feet out to have it swish through the net at the buzzer.
   "That was a good momentum builder," said North coach Ty Randolph. "I thought there was a sense of urgency after awhile. I thought they really clamped down on the defensive end and made things happen."
   In the second quarter, Shoun scored seven for the Longhorns and Gary Evans added five points. Minnick scored three baskets for North while Matt Hansen followed Minnick's last-second scoring trend, and put a rebound through the hoop at the halftime buzzer.
   In the third quarter, the Longhorns turned on the transition speed, as Justin Genaille put two court-long passes from Shoun through the hoop. In the final quarter, despite two baskets and two free throws from Shoun, six-point efforts from Hackler and Thomas led the way to 21 Raider points that would prevent the Longhorns from recovering the lead.
   "I think the most important thing with turnovers is that you have to know what to do with it once you get it," said Randolph. "I thought sometimes we rushed to get back to the other end, which is the hardest thing to teach. For the most part, I thought (Johnson County) held their points. Their team is a scrappy, fighting type team."
   Shoun was the game's leading scorer, with 21 points for the Longhorns. Genaille and Evans scored nine and seven. For North, Thomas led with 17 points, while Minnick and Aaron Hartley added ten points each.
   "We missed a lot of easy ones, and they got a lot of trash buckets," said Longhorn coach Austin Atwood. "I give credit to North -- they did a good job. He stuck to his guns, and he did that all year long."
   Sullivan North will face Elizabethton at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening, while Unicoi County will play Sullivan Central at 8 p.m.