BRISTOL — Johnson County made a nice comeback, but couldn’t negotiate the final deal.
Trailing by 15 points in the first half, the Longhorns caught and passed Tabernacle Baptist in the fourth quarter before the Falcons made more plays down the stretch for a 59-53 win in a losers’ bracket game of the Arby’s Classic on Saturday morning at Viking Hall.
“We had a good run in the third quarter,” said Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood. “We missed a crucial box out, and they got a three-point play. It went south from there.”
Johnson County fell to 7-7, but got a pair of standout performances in their two Arby’s losses from Brian Dempsey. The senior had 28 points and seven rebounds against Memphis Hamilton, and came back with 22 points and 13 boards versus the Falcons.
The Longhorns trailed 29-14 in the first half, but closed with six straight points before the break to gain momentum. They began their comeback in earnest with a strong third quarter, paced by Chase Phillips. The junior guard bounced back from an off game, giving the ‘Horns a chance to win with 22 points.
“He played bad against Hamilton, but it was the first time in a big situation with him being the player,” said Atwood. “He was the key in the third quarter (against Tabernacle). He took the game over. The first two possessions of the third quarter he went straight to the rim, which is what we needed the whole time.”
Johnson County broke in front of Tabernacle in the fourth quarter, and the game was tied at 40-40 with six minutes left. The Falcons then scored six straight points and Johnson County never fully regained its footing.
Twenty-one turnovers seemed to seal Johnson County’s fate.
“That was definitely unacceptable,” said Atwood. “Our point guard kind of got caught trying to go too fast. We have too many veteran guys who have played in these games. We’ve got to keep our turnovers to 10-12 at the most. That was the turning point.
“Their chaos was hard on both ends. The tempo was definitely driven by them. We got to their pace, and we didn’t want to do that.”
Robert Joseph led Tabernacle with 16 points. Melvin Elsie added 15 points while Raheem Laing totaled 13.