Longhorns turn tables on Central

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Jason Poteet made one shot Wednesday night in Johnson County's Region 1-AA boys semifinal with Sullivan Central.
   It was the biggest shot hit by a Longhorn player in nearly 20 years.
   Poteet hit the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to not only give the Longhorns a 46-43 victory over the Cougars, but also secured Johnson County's place in next Monday's substate.
   The Longhorns will go for a regional championship tonight against Elizabethton at 8 p.m. It will be Johnson County's first trip to the substate since 1984.
   "These guys, they're tough, they're tough minded," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said very emotionally. "If I was ever going to go to war, there's not a guy on this team I wouldn't want to take with me. They're the guys that I can count on. Jason Poteet, a guy that's not played in awhile, he had enough heart to have his feet set and step up and hit it. I love them all like they're my own."
   It looked like the contest might go into overtime when John LeSueur hit a three-pointer with a Longhorn in his face to tie the contest at 43-43.
   After a timeout, Johnson County's Matt Cornett took the ball down the court, but with Central keying on him, he found Poteet in the corner.
   Poteet had hardly played in the tournament, but you couldn't tell it when he nailed the the trey with one second left to send the Longhorn fans in a frenzy.
   "It's awesome," Poteet said. "It's great. It's the best feeling in the world."
   Said Atwood: "Cornett comes to the huddle with 14 seconds and says 'I want the ball.' We got a play for Judd, we just called flat. He catches it, we clear everybody out and let Judd go one-on-one, so we said 'you get it, Cornett you go get it from him and take it to the hole. We knew there was going to be help side, so we substituted Poteet in for Adam Johnson. Cornett kicked it to Poteet for the three, and that was it."
   Poteet was at a loss for words after the miraculous shot.
   "This is indescribable" he said. "We haven't been to the substate in 20 years, and it feels great to be the one that put us there."
   Cornett was the guy that created the play for Poteet to make. Cornett wanted it that way.
   "I've never felt anything like it," Cornett said. "I'm probably the only person tonight that is mad at Jason. For three years he didn't play. I just wish he had been there all three years with me. He could have been doing that for us for a long time.
   "I wouldn't of had it any other way. I would rather him hit that shot than me. I'm glad LeSueur hit the three and it happened the way it did."
   The Longhorns finally ended their losing streak against Sullivan Central. Johnson County had lost three times to the Cougars this season, including a 31-point defeat just one week ago in the District 1-AA Tournament.
   It looked like the Cougars were going to make it four-in-a-row after taking a 16-10 first quarter lead.
   After that, the Longhorns clamped down on defense and finally contained Central's shooters. In the next two quarters, the Cougars failed to score 10 points in each frame.
   Central shot 15-of-45 on the night after burning the Longhorns in three previous meetings.
   "They haven't had a cold night against us yet," Cornett said. "That was the first time. They have shot the lights out against us every time. We just came out in a new defense tonight against them that we hadn't run on them yet. Coach Atwood had us ready for them on defense. We were well-prepared, and we just executed it.
   "I told every one of our boys to pray. We all prayed and God came through for us."
   The Longhorns did blow a four-point lead in the final 40 seconds, but Atwood had faith in his boys.
   "Never once did I look in my guys eyes and think that they were going to lose," Atwood said.
   Cornett topped Johnson County with 17. LeSueur led all scorers with 23.
   The Longhorns, now 20-11 on the year, will look for three upsets in a row tonight against the conference and district champion Cyclones.
   Atwood knows it's the team's biggest challenge yet, but he remains confident.
   "It will be tough," Atwood said. "Elizabethton has got a great, great team. It will be hard to come out three nights in a row, but I tell you what, these boys won't quit."
   Girls
   Unicoi County 42
   Sullivan Central 33
   The Lady Blue Devils survived an 11-2 run by the Lady Cougars to start the game en route to a second-straight Region 1-AA final appearance.
   Megan Headley led Unicoi with 16 points. Kristi Moody and Beth Shelton each had 12 for Sullivan Central.