Trailing for most of the contest, the Longhorns — led by 31 points from Blake Atwood — passed Unicoi County with four minutes to go. They eventually earned a 67-58 win in the third-place game of the District 1-AA basketball tournament at Bayless Gym on Tuesday night.
Johnson County improved to 25-5 and will travel to play Chuckey-Doak in Friday’s region quarterfinals. Unicoi fell to 9-23 and will also travel on Friday, meeting Greeneville.
OVERCOMING THE CONSOLATION
Johnson County wasn’t where it wanted, or expected, to be.
“That had a lot to do with it,” said Longhorns’ head coach Austin Atwood. “Our guys have had such a good year, and losing that one to South, it hurt. Plus not getting to play for the district championship. But it’s going to put a little fire in us.”
The Longhorns scored the game’s first bucket, but quickly fell behind. The Blue Devils, who have come to life at the end of the season, kept knocking down shots and holding the Horns at an arm’s length away.
Finally, with four minutes left the game, Gavin Reece knocked down a shot to give the Longhorns a 54-52 lead that they did not relinquish. Hot-shooting Unicoi finally missed a few shots, allowing Johnson County to move ahead.
“I knew it was going to be a tough battle,” said Atwood. “Against their zone, it was tough finding good looks. We really battled in the second half and did a good job defensively.”
Lucas Phillips contributed 15 points to the Longhorns cause.
Unicoi was led by Gavin Casey’s 16-point effort. Brock Thompson added 13 while Danny Lowery chipped in with 12 points.