Cornett, 'Horns trim Rangers

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   Matt Cornett was like a pot of Maxwell House coffee Tuesday night. His performance was good to the last drop.
   Cornett hit two free-throws in the final seconds to give the Johnson County Longhorns a 62-60 victory in a thrilling contest at Snavely Gym.
   "This is a special win," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. Unaka was ahead 60-57 in the last 40 seconds of the contest, but when Judd Shoun scored and drew the foul, the Longhorns were within one. Shoun made the free-throw to tie the game at 60-60.
   On Unaka's next possession, Dustin Collins was trying to get the basketball up the court, but stepped out of bounds. This gave Johnson County 10.7 seconds to take a crack at winning the ball game.
   From there, it was up to Cornett.
   Cornett drove to the basket, but was blocked by Unaka's Ben Cole with 4.8 seconds left.
   But Cornett would not be denied. The ball went into Cornett's hands on the inbounds pass, and he took the ball to the hole only to be fouled by Cole in the act of shooting.
   Cornett connected on both foul shots, and the Longhorns went back to Johnson County with the victory.
   Cornett, who scored a game-high 30, was determined not to miss those free-throws.
   "We've lost two or three ball games due to free-throws," Cornett said. "We just haven't hit our free-throws, and it's cost us. We've been practicing and practicing them. There was no way I was going to miss them."
   As for the play Cornett was blocked on, he didn't necessarily agree with the call, but knew he had to just shake it off and play basketball.
   "I felt like they were both fouls, but we didn't get the call," Cornett said. "You just got to step up and play the next play. Doesn't matter, if you don't get the call you don't get the call."
   Unaka head coach Donald Ensor didn't feel like the last play was the reason for the Longhorn victory.
   "That could have been called either way I'm sure," Ensor said. "But that didn't lose the ball game for us, nor did it win it for Johnson County."
   Ensor thought Johnson County's hustle may have been the difference in this one.
   "They played a little harder than we did," Ensor said. "They picked up more loose balls, and we got beat on the boards. They just played harder."
   Unaka was leading 44-42 going into the fourth quarter, but the Longhorns scored seven unanswered to take a 49-44 lead. After that, it was a back and forth contest with the lead changing several times in the final minutes.
   The Rangers also came to play in this contest. They hit a lot of big shots, including 12 three-pointers.
   Aaron Dugger made six in the contest, while Collins netted four trifectas.
   "They hit more key shots than we did," Atwood said. "They were hitting 25-footers. That was sort of in our game plan, but it wasn't in our game plan for them to hit them."
   Dugger led the Rangers with 20, Cole poured in 19, and Collins tallied 14 for Unaka. These were definitely big performances, but they accounted for 53 of Unaka's 60 points.
   Ensor thinks that lack of depth hurt them in this game, and believes that has been an problem for the Rangers all season long.
   "We're looking for depth," Ensor said. "We just can't depend on those three guys to score 50 points a night. We've got to get some more balance scoring. We're going to keep coming in here and keep working."
   The turning point in the game may have been in the third quarter. Unaka had all the momentum on its side, as the Rangers came out of the locker room with a 31-25 advantage.
   But the Longhorns didn't let the Rangers increase their lead. Johnson County started the half on a 9-2 run to go up 34-33, and it was a dogfight from that point on.
   The third quarter is something we really stress," Atwood said. "Even in practice in our eight minute drills, when we get to our third station, we really try to push up the intensity a little bit because the third quarter is a big quarter for everybody."
   In addition to Cornett's standout game, Tommy Short also came up big for the Longhorns. He poured in 15 on the night.
   Johnson County improves to 2-3 with the win, while the Rangers fall to 2-4.
   Atwood felt like it was big to win at Unaka, as he feels the school has a very special basketball program.
   "This is the best atmosphere you will get until you go down the road in the substate," Atwood said. "They have great fans, and great coaches. Donald Ensor does a great, great job. I've learned a lot from him."
   Girls
   Johnson County 44
   Unaka 32
   The Lady Longhorns were the victors in a battle of two teams looking for their first win of the season.
   Johnson County struggled in a 56-31 loss to Sullivan East Friday night, so this was a welcomed change for first-year Lady Longhorn head coach Eric Crabtree.
   "We finally got into a rhythm offensively," Crabtree said. "We didn't do anything major tonight. All we did was just play. And when they play they do good things."
   One player that came up big in this contest was Tasha Lunceford. The post player scored 12, but dominated on the boards.
   "She was the difference," Crabtree said. "All the other girls played well, but Tasha was the difference. She got rebounds, she hit inside shots, she worked her butt off."
   Johnson County led for most of the contest, but it was tight throughout.
   The second half was key for the Lady Longhorns, as they outscored the Lady Rangers 22-13.
   The Lady Rangers have shown a lot of promise this year, but are off to an 0-5 start.
   "We've been doing well," Chambers said. "We've had to play with a lot of freshmen, especially with people hurt. Right now we've only got two seniors playing. It's going to take some time. There might be some games where we might play good, and there are going to be others where we play lousy.
   "I felt like we played fairly good, we just didn't hit our shots.
   Andrea McQueen led the Lady Longhorns with 13. Heather Taylor topped Unaka with eight.