Hilltoppers breeze by Longhorns

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY-- Johnson County wanted to control the tempo. Science Hill did just that.
   Playing the run and gun style of ball that gained Science Hill national attention in the 1990's, the Hilltoppers breezed to a 98-50 victory over the Longhorns Friday night at the 'Topper Palace.
   Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said early in the week that the Longhorns wanted to play a half-court game, but Science Hill had other plans.
   The Hilltoppers used pressure defense to come up with many turnovers, and then in turn converted them into baskets.
   Led by a 13-point first quarter and three early treys by Jerome Odem, the Hilltoppers held an astounding 35-14 edge after the first period.
   The second quarter was more of the same, only this time it was Julius Bowling causing the damage for Science Hill. Bowling scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in that frame.
   Science Hill led 63-27 at halftime. The Hilltoppers cruised the rest of the way.
   "I felt like their press didn't hurt us, we hurt ourselves," Atwood said. "We got through the press a little bit, they got us still every eighth or ninth possession, but once we beat the press we never slowed it down. We shot right where they wanted us to shoot. They don't care if you hit a shot or two. Even if you hit it, they want to get it out and go again.
   "We never forced the issue in a half-court set. It looked like (Science Hill head coach Mike Poe) was coaching two teams there. We looked like puppets doing what he wants us to do."
   The 'Toppers not only controlled the pace, but also didn't miss too many shots in the first half. Atwood believes the 'Toppers played great, but was not real happy with his team's performance.
   "We just didn't play well," Atwood said. "It's disappointing. It was a good opportunity for our kids, and there was a 50-1 chance of our kids beating them. I definitely don't think they are 50 points better than we are."
   In addition to Bowling's spectacular performance, Odem added 19 for the 'Toppers. Nick Bradley and Anthony Barcell also hit double figures, as they netted 13 and 12 points, respectively.
   Matt Cornett topped Johnson County with 14 points. Tommy Short and Michael Lipford each had 10 for the 'Horns.
   The 'Toppers definitely didn't overlook the Longhorns to get ready for last night's showdown with fellow Class AAA powerhouse Rhea County. Science Hill knew Johnson County was an opponent to be reckoned with.
   Bowling pointed out that Johnson County gave Greeneville all it wanted on opening night, and that the Hilltoppers had to rally from behind to beat the Greene Devils last week.
   "Coach told us they were real good," Bowling said. "He told us Greeneville beat them by two. He told us just to go out and never give up, because they would never give up. They hustled the whole game and never stopped."
   Playing Science Hill was an opportunity Johnson County hasn't received often. The two schools haven't faced each other the since the 1996-97 season.
   Still, Atwood was hoping for a better outcome.
   "We didn't want to just come play them," Atwood said. "We felt like we could compete with them. We wanted to do good things against a great team, and we didn't do good things. We looked like five puppets on strings out there."