Falcons eck past 'Horns for third-place honors

By Matt Hill

   Volunteer's Jacob Frazier went from scoreless in the scorebook to being an unlikely hero in the blink of an eye Friday night.
   Frazier hit two free-throws with two seconds left to give the Falcons a thrilling 54-52 victory over the Johnson County Longhorns in the consolation game of the District 1-AA boys tournament at Treadway Gym.
   Johnson County held the basketball until the final seconds on its last offensive possession, and it looked like the Longhorns at the very worst would have the game go into overtime.
   Then the unlikely happened.
   Johnson County post Adam Johnson put up a shot that would have probably won the Longhorns the game if it had gone in, but it missed after great defensive pressure by the Falcons on the possession, as the basketball fell into Frazier's hands.
   On the rebound, Johnson was called for a reach-in foul.
   Frazier went on to hit two free-throws to give Volunteer third place in the district.
   It was Frazier's only two points of the game.
   "After getting that rebound, I thought they would let the time run off and let us go into overtime and battle it out," Frazier said. "But they fouled me."
   Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood isn't so sure that the foul should have been called.
   "The officials did a good job, but I don't know if you call a foul with two seconds left in a district tournament game," Atwood said. "You let the players decide it. If it was a hard foul, he should have called it. But I just didn't see a real hard foul."
   Frazier believes the right call was made.
   "It was," Frazier said when asked if he thought it was a legitimate foul. "They were reaching."
   On the shot that was missed by Johnson County, Atwood admitted it wasn't the play he wanted.
   "We knew the off-side block man was going to fly out to the shooter, and we wanted (Matt) Cornett flashing hard, which he did. We just threw it to the wrong place."
   Volunteer wouldn't have been in the situation to win had it not been for Weston Creasy.
   Like Frazier, Creasy had been silent in the scoring department until he hit a three-pointer with 58 seconds left to tie the game at 52-52.
   These heroics all happened with one of Northeast Tennessee's elite players, Chucky Lindholm, on the Volunteer bench after fouling out.
   "I didn't know if we could win," Creasy said. "We were down by five with Chuck being fouled out. He put me in and I did what I had to do."
   Even though it was a rough ending for Johnson County, it might have been a stretch in the third quarter that proved costly for the Longhorns.
   Johnson County led 31-23 with 5:45 to go in the third quarter, and it seemed to have everything in hand.
   Volunteer answered back with an 9-3 run to cut the Longhorns lead to 34-32 with 2:57 remaining in the third.
   With the score 35-32 in favor of Johnson County, Volunteer went on a second spurt that totally took the wind out of the boys from Mountain City.
   Three straight Johnson County turnovers led to eight-straight Volunteer points. By the end of the barrage, Volunteer held a 40-35 edge.
   "It was my fault," Atwood said about the loss. "It was definitely my fault. The players played good. I let them make a run on us and didn't call a timeout. We usually handle the press real well. I knew we were going to get it to half-court where I could get one called, but Tommy Short was out of the game at that time, and we just had a hard time getting the ball to the middle. I just waited way too long to call a timeout."
   "It was my fault. They played good enough to win."
   The Longhorns did a good job of bouncing back, and even took a 52-47 lead in the fourth before Volunteer closed with a flourish.
   "When Chucky went out of the game, they just stepped up and played better," Atwood said. "That's one you can mark down on the coach for losing. Our boys played good enough to win."
   Lindholm led Volunteer with 18 points. Cornett and Judd Shoun scored 21 and 15, respectively for Johnson County.
   Cornett also had 10 rebounds.
   Johnson County will now play District 2-AA champion Claiborne County Monday at EHS in the Region 1-AA Tournament.
   An upset win might mean a rematch with nemesis Sullivan Central in the regional semifinals. Central defeated Johnson County in the District semis by 31 points.
   Atwood knows his team has a tough road ahead.
   "We're going to have to play well," he said.
   It was a hard-fought contest between two bitter rivals on Friday, and is a game that Volunteer head coach Todd Whittemore won't soon forget.
   "This is a tough district and to take third place this year, we're awful proud of that. Whittemore said.
   * If you were at the game Friday night, you might have been a little confused at first. Despite Johnson County being the higher seed and wearing its home uniforms, the Longhorns were the visitors on the scoreboard.
   * Cornett and Shoun were named to the All-Tournament team.