Blake Atwood finished with a game-high 35 points to lead the Longhorns (26-7) and kept them in the game with six made 3-pointers, including a few step-back jumpers in the first half that awed the Fulton fans.
Gavin Reece continually stepped up in big moments for three quarters and netted 19 points. Zach Eller finished in double digits as well for Johnson County with 12.
A 6-0 Falcons (26-4) run near the end of the third quarter via two questionable technical foul shots and a made bucket on the next possession completely shifted the focus of the game. The ’Horns were down 51-45 and firmly in the game, but then the Falcons were up 12 (57-45) suddenly without a full 45 seconds running off the clock thanks to the technicals.
“Without a doubt, that turned the game around,” Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. “My guys have to be smarter, though. When you’re playing in Jody Wright’s place and he’s on the board of the TSSAA officials, he’s going to get the call and he deserves to get it. … We knew coming in that we’d have to play the perfect game.”
Fulton’s “Mr. Football” Class 5A winner Deshawn Page led the Falcons with 26 points, but he went 4-for-13 from the free throw line. Edward Lacy — a talented guard full of swagger the entire game — finished with 22 points after fouling out with 2:06 left.
Trey Davis finished with 11 points while Tommy Sweat pitched in 10 for the Falcons.
The Falcons took over the game late and ran the legs off of Johnson County, bursting out to as much as an 18-point lead. However, to the ’Horns credit, they did cut the lead back to 86-76 with 42 seconds to play and made the Falcons sweat a little bit.
“We had a chance and for 28 minutes, we controlled the game,” Atwood said. “We couldn’t rebound the ball in the second half and they’re very big and athletic. Jody does a good job of letting his guys play that way. What we thought was a box out isn’t a box out down here. You have to get into them because they’re too athletic.”
Johnson County had the lead several times in the first half, but could never quite build more than a three-point lead. The game was tied at 35 at the intermission and was cleanly played on both ends with the two teams accumulating just five fouls each.
Right out of the gate though, Fulton blitzed Johnson County with an 8-0 run including two made 3-pointers by Sweat and Davis.
For the ’Horns — playing in their first sectional game since 2003 — it was certainly a memorable season.
“The reason why this team is so special is because they were a close-knit group that knew their roles and did it to the best of their abilities,” Atwood said. “I’ve coached a long time and I’ve never had a group like this. … In 69 practices, I did not have one day where I dreaded going to practice. I loved every minute that I got to spend with them and I appreciate them giving me a year that we’re going to remember.”