'Horns upsets Claiborne Co.
By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   The Johnson County boys basketball team had senior moments Monday night.
   Seniors Matt Cornett, Tommy Short and Adam Johnson all made big plays at the close of a 62-61 upset win over District 2-AA champion Claiborne County in the opening round of the Region 1-AA Tournament at Treadway Gym.
   Cornett scored 32 on the night, but didn't score two bigger points until he hit the jumper to put his team up for good at 59-58 with 38 seconds left in regulation.
   "I said to myself, seniors step up on big nights," Cornett said. "Our seniors came and stepped up on a big night. All our players stepped up tonight. We just didn't have letdowns. (Volunteer head coach Todd Whittemore) came in here and said if you come in and play 95 percent, you might lose. You've got to have 110 percent effort in tournaments. Everybody was giving 110 percent out there.
   "Coach had us ready tonight."
   Cornett may have put the Longhorns on top, but Short and Johnson made sure the Longhorns would advance to Wednesday's semifinals.
   After Cornett's bucket, Short came up with a huge steal on a possession that might have been the game winner for the Blue Devils.
   It's been a tough last few weeks for Short on the offensive end, but there may not have been a bigger play in the basketball game than the steal.
   "I definitely had to step up," Short said. "I had my guts questioned tonight, whether I wanted to step up and keep playing another game or two, or whether I wanted to go home. I knew I had to step up no matter when that time came. Luckily, it came right there when it counted."
   After two key foul shots by junior point guard Judd Shoun gave the Longhorns a 61-58 advantage, Claiborne's Tony Brogan missed a three-point attempt that would have tied the contest.
   The basketball went out of bounds, and Cornett was fouled.
   After Cornett missed the front-end of a one-and-one, it looked like Claiborne was going to get one more shot at tying the game.
   Enter another senior to the rescue.
   Adam Johnson came up with the rebound for the Longhorns and called time out.
   On the next play, Cornett was fouled in the final seconds and iced it with a free-throw,.
   Brogan hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to bring the game to its final score of 62-61.
   But it was a big play by Johnson, who avenged some tough times he had Friday in the loss to Volunteer.
   "This could of been our last," Johnson said, who led the Longhorns with seven rebounds. "I played like it was my last. I had to step up and do what I could for the team. A couple of games before that I hadn't been playing so great. I changed a little bit this game, and I prepared for it."
   It looked like Claiborne was going to pull away in the second half, as it held a 44-38 advantage late in the third.
   But Cornett and Shoun showed why they're two of Northeast Tennessee's premier players, as they each had nine fourth quarter points to carry the Longhorns.
   Cornett wasn't ready to call it a career.
   "It was life or death," he said. "There were no guarantees that we would ever play another basketball game again. We came into this game life or death. We were going to come in here and make it a four-team Watauga Conference second round."
   With the win, the Longhorns will take on the Sullivan Central-Gatlinburg Pittman winner, a game that will be played today.
   A victory in that region semifinal would not only put the Longhorns in the final, but also give Johnson County its first trip to the substate in two decades.
   The seniors are treasuring this moment.
   "We just don't want to quit playing," Short said. We've put so much into this year. Practice is at six o' clock in the morning before school, and we don't want to give it up right now. We had to step and take control.
   "I can't put it into words. We're just one win away to do something that hasn't been done in 15 years. That's just something you don't do every year. We're going to be ready and prepared."
   Shoun and Short each had 10 points each to add to Cornett's scoring barrage. Brogan led Claiborne County with 17.
   The Longhorns will play at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
   Girls
   Unicoi County 49
   Pigeon Forge 47
   Candace Shelton's game winning shot gave the Lady Blue Devils the victory in the afternoon tilt.
   Megan Headley topped the Lady Devils with 16 points. Kendra Newman had
   13 to lead Pigeon Forge.
   Girls
   West Greene 43
   Volunteer 35
   The Lady Buffaloes, champions in District 2-AA, rallied from a first-half deficit to knock off the upstart Lady Falcons.
   Jessica Snead topped West Greene with 16. Volunteer's Leah Johnson led all scorers with 18.