'Horns fall to Central in spite of Cornett's 43

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- If a stand-up comedian had performed a show after the Johnson County-Sullivan Central boys basketball game Friday night, it probably would have been done with little fanfare.
   The Johnson County boys basketball team thought what had just happened was no laughing matter.
   The Longhorns were trying to find some answers after suffering an 89-71 defeat to the Cougars at Ray Shoun Gym.
   "We didn't play much defense," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said.
   That comment was agreed upon by Longhorn forward Matt Cornett, who scored an incredible 43 points.
   But the numbers on the scoreboard were the ones that concerned
   Cornett, and he definitely wasn't satisfied with his performance.
   "That's not even important," Cornett said. "Getting the "W" is all that matters. We just slacked up on our defense. That's exactly what we didn't want to do. Our defense just let us go. We're just as good as them.
   It was just defense, that's all it was."
   Point guard Judd Shoun, who tallied 11 points on the evening, was also disappointed by the Cougars hitting 36 shots from the field.
   "I don't think we should work on offense at all because all five of our players can score," Shoun said. "But our defense has killed us. We just can't get down in our stance and move our feet. We slap too much. That's our main problem."
   It may have been a rough night for the Longhorns, but it didn't start out that way.
   Johnson County came out of the gate on fire. The Longhorns outscored the Cougars 10-0 in the first four minutes of the game.
   The Cougars quickly bounced back. By the 7:44 mark of the second quarter, Johnson County's lead had diminished and the Cougars were on top 17-15.
   "When we scored 10 in a row, and that's like going fishing and catching that big fish right off the bat, then you don't catch one for eight hours," Atwood said.
   The next big spurt for Sullivan Central came late in the second quarter. The game was tied at 28-28 with 3:00 minutes left, but a 13-3 run to close the frame gave the Cougars a 41-31 advantage going into the locker room.
   "We picked up the tempo in four or five minute stretches, and that was another thing that got us beat," Atwood said.
   The second half was when Cornett did most of his damage. His barrage of baskets, and his ability to get to the foul line kept the Longhorns in the basketball game.
   Cornett scored 31 of his 42 in the second half, and went to charity stripe 27 times.
   Atwood was pleased with Cornett's offensive performance, but would like to see a better output from him on the defensive end.
   "He plays great offense, and he plays defense in spurts. I'm challenging him now to be a stud on both ends instead of just one. For us to win games, he's going to have to play both ends as hard as he can play. And we talked about that tonight after the game."
   The final blow to the Longhorns came due to another big Cougar spurt late in the third quarter. In the final 1:19 of that frame, Sullivan Central went on a 9-0 run to close the quarter, giving the Cougars a commanding 69-50 edge going into the final eight minutes.
   The Longhorns kept fighting until the end, but could not get any closer than 12 points in the fourth quarter.
   Atwood thought depth played a big factor in Sullivan Central's victory.
   The Cougars had four players in double figures.
   "They just have so much darn depth," Atwood said. "They're a great team. Coach (Tony) Vaughn did a heck of a job. He's got some athletes."
   Cornett, Shoun and Tommy Short did most of the scoring Friday night for Johnson County. In addition to Cornett and Shoun's performances, Short poured in 11.
   Josh Crain topped Central with 25. Eric Weatherly, Matt Hobbs and John LeSueur scored 17, 14 and 13, respectively.
   Vaughn was glad to leave Mountain City with a victory Friday night.
   "This is a tough place to play," Vaughn said. "Johnson County's well coached. They shoot it well, they've got quickness, and we ended up having to battle."
   The Longhorns fell to 1-6 after the defeat. The game was the first conference contest for Johnson County.
   Johnson County will look to bounce back Tuesday night against Happy Valley.