Greene Devils escape 'Horns

By Matt Hill

   MOUNTAIN CITY-- Johnson County had its chances. Greeneville made plays and got the breaks.
   The Greene Devils did the little things better on Friday evening, and as a result left Ray Shoun Gym with a 64-62 win over a much-improved Longhorn squad in the opening night of action in the TSSAA Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.
   The game could have gone Johnson County's way if not for a 9-of-22 effort from the foul line.
   Offensive rebounds were also big for Greeneville during a late run by the Longhorns.
   "Simple things beat us," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "When you can't hit no more free-throws than that, and when you've got five guys rebounding and they've got one and he gets a board, the little things beat us."
   The game looked over with after Chris Poore got the rebound and put the ball in the bucket on a missed free-throw with about a minute to go to give the Greene Devils a commanding 61-53 advantage.
   But that wasn't the case. The Longhorns responded as Judd Shoun hit a huge three to make it a 61-56 game.
   After the two teams swapped free throws, the Greene Devils still clinged to a five-point edge until Johnson County's Tommy Short hit a three-pointer of his own to pull the Longhorns to within 62-60 with 10 seconds left.
   Controversy then struck after the inbounds pass, as it appeared that Short forced a jump ball on Chattanooga commitment Matt Malone that would have given the basketball back to the Longhorns. However, it was ruled that Short fouled Malone, who went on to sink two free-throws to ice it for the Greene Devils.
   After the game, Atwood said that the Longhorns would have never been in that situation if more free-throws were made.
   "It's not even a close game," Atwood said. "It's an eight or ten point game for us. And we're good shooting free throws. We shoot free throws good. It's just the first game out, and I think we might have been a little nervous.
   "If we hit our free throws, we're not in a situation to have to worry about an official making a call.
   Longhorn guard Michael Lipford, who tallied 11-points on the night, also thought rebounding and free-throw shooting were big parts of the Johnson County defeat.
   "I think it would have been a different game if we had hit our rebounds and just done the simple things, and we wouldn't of had to worry about the ref making that last call," Lipford said. "I think if we would just make our free-throws we would do a lot better."
   Johnson County started the game by taking a 7-0 lead, but a 17-4 run by Greeneville to end the quarter put the 'Devils on top 17-11 after one. The Longhorns never led after that point.
   "What got us was that three-minute stretch in the first quarter," Atwood said. "We're up seven, get a personal foul, have three straight turnovers, and Matt Cornett picks up (his third foul), and we go down by 10. Against somebody like Greeneville, it's hard to fight and scratch your way back in."
   Still, the Longhorns had nothing to be ashamed of. They played toe-to-toe with one of the best Class AAA teams in the area.
   The play of Judd Shoun and Lipford happened to be big on the night. In addition to Lipford's double-figure outing, Shoun led the Longhorns with 19 points.
   Both are juniors who showed Friday night that they have come into their own on this Longhorn squad.
   "Lipford's a role player for us," Atwood said. "We can expect him night in and night out to come in and put the "D" on somebody and get some backside rebounds. He's the guy that does all the little things good. He stepped in and hit a few big shots, and we expect that from him."
   "Judd's doing a lot better job controlling the offense, and really not turning it over as much. Defensively, if he will start playing a little more to speed, which he has the last couple of games, we're going to get more turnovers."
   Short also had 11 for the Longhorns Friday night. Cornett played admirably despite being hammered with foul trouble all night long to finish with eight points.
   Frank Icenhour also played well in his first start as a Longhorn, as he netted six points and came up with several big rebounds.
   Bradley Blair led Greeneville with 20 points, while Chris Poore netted 19 for the Greene Devils. Malone finished with 13.
   Sullivan East 64
   Hampton 51
   Brian Milhorn's 19-point effort carried the Patriots, as East led almost all the way in this one.
   Hampton was within nine points at 44-35 early in the fourth quarter, but an 11-4 run by the Patriots doomed the Bulldogs.
   It was the start of the Bud Hazelwood era at Hampton, and he hopes things will get better for the Bulldogs.
   "We didn't play well," Hazelwood said. "We came out and played very good defense early, and we got behind because we couldn't shoot. We got behind, and we tried to do some things that we really weren't comfortable with."
   A couple of bright spots for the Bulldogs were Mitchell Morton and Michael McCall. Morton led Hampton with 14 points, while McCall added 13.
   "Michael McCall played really hard," Hazelwood said. "Mitchell Morton looked better tonight than anytime he has in practice so far."
   David Leonard also hit double figures for East, tallying 15 on the evening.
   Knox Bearden 90
   Unaka 48
   A young Ranger team hung in early against the Class AAA squad, but Bearden wore the boys from Stoney Creek down in the end.
   Unaka only trailed 28-18 with 7:10 to go in the second quarter, but by the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs held a commanding 64-40 advantage.
   Bearden didn't let up, as it outscored Unaka 26-8 in the final period.
   "The finer points of the game, we didn't do very well," Unaka head coach Donald Ensor said. "We didn't block out, we didn't win the battle of the loose balls, we didn't run the floor very well, we gave them way too many easy baskets. And the last thing I saw that I didn't like was as the game progressed and started getting away from us, we let it. We didn't keep fighting. That's not our kind of basketball."
   This was the first regular-season contest for a team that features four new starters. Ensor hopes his team can learn from the loss.
   "They're going to have to grow up, and they're going to have to grow up quick," Ensor said. "And it's not done sitting around waiting for it to smack you in the face. You've got to go attack. If you're going to make a mistake, there's no time to sit on the court and feel sorry for yourself when you do. You better go 100 miles an hour and recover a 100 miles an hour, and we didn't do that tonight."
   Rusty Chambers played well in defeat for Unaka with his 15-point effort. Cody Collins added nine for the Rangers.
   It was a balanced effort for Bearden, as five different players hit double figures.
   NOTE: Due to deadline concerns, Saturday's games from the TSSAA Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament will be in Monday's paper.