JCMS softball expecting another championship run .

Front row, L-R: Hannah Fletcher, Shawna Arnold, Lexie Proffitt, Emily Walker, Ashlynn Beam, Brayden Eastridge, and Maddie Jones. Back row, L-R: Harley Potter, Lauren Bishop, Aden Thomas, Eden Potter, Kendle Watson, Kenzie Poe.

FrFront row, L-R: Autumn Shepherd, Brayden Eastridge, Maddie Jones, Eden Potter, McKenzie Poe, and Audrey Savery. Back row L-R: Isabelle Katsaitis (Water girl), Kendyle Kleine, Zenna Bouchelle, Amy Gunter, Aubrey Baird, Hanah Fritts and Hannah Lewis, Chloe Gladden (Water girl). Photos by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

Johnson County Middle School has a new head coach for the first time in nine years but doesn’t expect the program to fall off any. Haley Miller takes over for Greg Reece who is now
the head coach at the high school.
Miller is no stranger to the sport having served as an assistant coach under Reece for the past four seasons before accepting her current role.
She takes over a team that is loaded with some good talent that should feature two of the top middle school players in this area in Hannah Fritts and Autumn Lewis.
Miller was all smiles when talking about them.
“Lewis and Fritts are our number one pitchers,” said Miller. “They make up a pitching staff that should be one of the best in our area. Both are trustworthy on the mound and good leaders. They’ll also be our two best hitters, and each can hit the ball long and drive in runs.”
Fritts proved that by hitting two home runs and a double off the fence in last year’s championship game win over Unaka. She homered at tryouts and Lewis can also hit the tater patch with some line drive bombs. She’ll bat in the cleanup spot.
Autumn Shepherd, Maddie Jones, and Audrey Savery are a trio of players that are good hitters and will be the table sitters for Fritts and Lewis.
Zenna Bouchelle. Kendyl Kline, Brayden Eastridge, Eden Potter, and Aubrie
Baird are other players that have impressed Miller.
They all have a chance to see lots of playing time and contribute.
Miller added that Fritts can display the leather at shortstop and has a strong arm that will be handy in getting some much-needed outs. She and Lewis both can put a spin on the ball that makes it hard for the opposing teams to hit.
“All these kids can play,” said Miller. Shepherd has a strong swing that will be helpful, and Jones is very versatile. She can play anywhere we put her and play it well. Savery has a lot of speed in the outfield and has a knack for getting to the ball quickly.”
Miller and her staff are working hard with the remainder of their lineup. She hopes to implement some small ball down in the bottom half.
“We have several kids that play travel ball during the summer, and that helps. I feel good about our pitching and defense, but we have to hit better in the bottom of our lineup.”
Miller and her assistant coach Mark Humphrey has been putting the finishing touches on before their season opener at home on March 12 versus Unaka.
“Our main focus has been on fielding, and we’re doing a lot of drills to help that. So far I see a lot of potential in our varsity team. Our batting speed is getting better, and they understand the fundamentals of the game. We still need to work on our mentality part and go up to the plate with confidence and a strong approach.”
Miller tabbed Unaka as their toughest challenge in league play with several others much improved.

JCMS softball expecting another championship run

FrFront row, L-R: Autumn Shepherd, Brayden Eastridge, Maddie Jones, Eden Potter, McKenzie Poe, and Audrey Savery. Back row L-R: Isabelle Katsaitis (Water girl), Kendyle Kleine, Zenna Bouchelle, Amy Gunter, Aubrey Baird, Hanah Fritts and Hannah Lewis, Chloe Gladden (Water girl). Photos by Scoop Christian

Front row, L-R: Hannah Fletcher, Shawna Arnold, Lexie Proffitt, Emily Walker, Ashlynn Beam, Brayden Eastridge, and Maddie Jones. Back row, L-R: Harley Potter, Lauren Bishop, Aden Thomas, Eden Potter, Kendle Watson, Kenzie Poe.

By Scoop Christian

Johnson County Middle School has a new head coach for the first time in nine years but doesn’t expect the program to fall off any. Haley Miller takes over for Greg Reece who is now
the head coach at the high school.
Miller is no stranger to the sport having served as an assistant coach under Reece for the past four seasons before accepting her current role.
She takes over a team that is loaded with some good talent that should feature two of the top middle school players in this area in Hannah Fritts and Autumn Lewis.
Miller was all smiles when talking about them.
“Lewis and Fritts are our number one pitchers,” said Miller. “They make up a pitching staff that should be one of the best in our area. Both are trustworthy on the mound and good leaders. They’ll also be our two best hitters, and each can hit the ball long and drive in runs.”
Fritts proved that by hitting two home runs and a double off the fence in last year’s championship game win over Unaka. She homered at tryouts and Lewis can also hit the tater patch with some line drive bombs. She’ll bat in the cleanup spot.
Autumn Shepherd, Maddie Jones, and Audrey Savery are a trio of players that are good hitters and will be the table sitters for Fritts and Lewis.
Zenna Bouchelle. Kendyl Kline, Brayden Eastridge, Eden Potter, and Aubrie
Baird are other players that have impressed Miller.
They all have a chance to see lots of playing time and contribute.
Miller added that Fritts can display the leather at shortstop and has a strong arm that will be handy in getting some much-needed outs. She and Lewis both can put a spin on the ball that makes it hard for the opposing teams to hit.
“All these kids can play,” said Miller. Shepherd has a strong swing that will be helpful, and Jones is very versatile. She can play anywhere we put her and play it well. Savery has a lot of speed in the outfield and has a knack for getting to the ball quickly.”
Miller and her staff are working hard with the remainder of their lineup. She hopes to implement some small ball down in the bottom half.
“We have several kids that play travel ball during the summer, and that helps. I feel good about our pitching and defense, but we have to hit better in the bottom of our lineup.”
Miller and her assistant coach Mark Humphrey has been putting the finishing touches on before their season opener at home on March 12 versus Unaka.
“Our main focus has been on fielding, and we’re doing a lot of drills to help that. So far I see a lot of potential in our varsity team. Our batting speed is getting better, and they understand the fundamentals of the game. We still need to work on our mentality part and go up to the plate with confidence and a strong approach.”
Miller tabbed Unaka as their toughest challenge in league play with several others much improved.

JCMS Softball Schedule 2019

March
8 WATAUGA 5:00
12 UNAKA 5:00
19 (Freshman orientation)
21 at Watauga 5:00
22-23 at Grandview Spring Fling Tourney TBA
26 at Hampton 5:00
28 CLOUDLAND 4:30
30 at Sevier County (JV) Noon
APRIL
2 HAPPY VALLEY 5:00
APRIL (continued)
5 TA DUGGER 5:30
9 HAMPTON 5:00
12 Mary Hughes 5:30
18 at Unka 5:00
20 Sevier County (JV) Noon
23 at Cloudland 4:30
25 HAPPY VALLEY 5:00
26 at TA Dugger 5:30
MAY
9-11 MS Conference Tourney TBA

JCMS baseball young but fun

Front row, L-R: Tanner Marshall, Graham Reece, Ezra Howard, Gorge Grill, Ethan Reece, Dominic Kelly, and Nate King. Back row, L-R: Asst. Coach Brad Reece, Peyton Pavusek, Chase Muncy, Connor Simcox, Tyler Bouchelle, Dalton Adams, Dakota Holt and head coach Julian Crews. Not pictured: Asst. Coach Travis Holt. Photos by Tameula Trivette

A “fountain of youth” must grow up and perform in a hurry for the middle school baseball team to have some success in 2019. Coach Julian Crews is back as the head skipper with over two decades under his belt as a baseball coach.
The Longhorns return only two starters off of last year’s team and three with any type of varsity experience. Peyton Pavusek and Graham Reece are the lone two starters,
and Dakota Holt logged
some varsity innings as a reserve.
That means that ten newcomers must step up in a hurry, but Crews is excited with their eagerness to learn and potential.
“I’m really counting on Peyton, Graham, and Dakota to lead our team,” said Crews. “They understand their roles, and they know what it takes to win at the varsity level. We have a lot of athletic ability and raw talent among our other players, but we must find a way to develop it during the season. We’ll be learning as we go.”
Pavusek will play shortstop and pitch and could be the team’s top hitter for average. Reece will handle the catching duties and bat leadoff. He too knows how to get on the bath paths and hits for a good average.
Dakota Holt will hold down first base while George Grill will be penciled in at second.
Ezra Howard will man the hot corner at third base. The outfield will consist of Tanner Marshall in the center, Tyler Bouchelle in right and left field will be by a committee of characters. The trio of Nate King, Dominic Kelly, and Ethan Reece will battle it out for that spot.
Reece is also the backup catcher. Chase Muncy should bolster the pitching staff while Dalton Adams is a player that hits the ball good and could be in the lineup as well.
One player that Crews is high on is seventh-grader Connor Simcox. He will be the one getting most of the innings on the mound according to his head coach.
“Conner has a good bat and will hit in the middle of our lineup. He’ll play some first and third base too. He’s kind of our swing man. We’re counting a lot on him especially as a pitcher and hitter.”
Crews added that Howard has a strong arm at third base and that Kelly and King give the outfield a lot of speed along with Marshall and Bouchelle. King also does an excellent job of putting the ball into play as does Marshall.
“Ezra, Tyler, and Tanner will hit in the bottom three of our lineup, but we’re expecting good things out of them,” said Crews. “We have a lot of kids that are young and inexperienced at this level, so it’s a wait and see who is playing well at the time. We’ll determine our lineup as the season goes on.”
Crews tabbed Providence Academy as the team to beat in their conference.
“They have a lot of kids over there that play travel ball and take private lessons. They just restock every year, so you have to elevate your game if you want to compete with them. We’re hoping that we can get better too as the season goes on.”
The team will play at Hampton on Thursday, March 14 and will be at home against Unaka on March 21.

Tennis Horns hoping for historic season

Front row, L-R:
Emily Irizarry, Lauren Patterson, Kaydence Ward, Ashlee Williams, Kaylee Anderson, Rhiannon Icenhour, and Omar Linares. Back row, L-R: Taylor Cox, Oliva Cox, Taylor Parsons, Margaret Morrow, Asst. Coach Tim Tugman,
Head coach Zack Pittman, Noah Nelson, Will Henson, Noah Cox, and Mason Stanley.
Not pictured:
Dalton Sluder.
Photo by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

The Longhorns 1984 boys’ basketball team were the last from the Johnson County to reach the state tournament before last year. It’s time that the tennis team got their recognition for reaching the state tournament in doubles play.
Taylor and Olivia Cox will head up the girl’s squad after winning the regional and reaching the elite eight last year. The sisters will play a vital role on the girl’s team that has a chance of making it to Murfreesboro.
Head coach Zack Pittman knows his team is talented and could make school history in 2019.
“I not only think that our girls have a shot of making the state as a team but I feel like our boys can win the conference and regional too,” said Pittman. “Taylor and Olivia have worked hard over the summer to get back to the state, and I think that will happen. I think they have the talent to win it. They actually won their first set last year, but the temperatures might have gotten to them. It was 90 plus degrees in Murfreesboro, and they might have got a little fatigued. Both of them are very determined to get back and bring home a state championship.
Taylor Parsons and Margaret Morrow will play as the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Hannah Bauer is penciled in at the fifth spot.
“Taylor and Margaret started playing last year, but I can already see huge strides,” added Pittman. “Both of them are very athletic and can cover the court. Hannah has one of the prettiest strokes I’ve ever seen, and she has improved immensely.”
The No. 6 spot has yet to be decided, but Pittman thinks that Rhiannon Icenhour could be the frontrunner. He also said that a few more could challenge for that final
spot.
The head coach likes what he has seen so on the boys’ side.
Mason Stanley is probably going to play at No. 1, but Noah Cox could challenge him for that spot.
“Mason is a very good player that does a lot of things very well, but I have my eye on Cox,” said Pittman. “He has been at the courts all summer and had some people working with him. He’s going to surprise some people this year.”
Dalton Sluder and Will Henson will play in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots.
Pittman praised them for their solid play.
“Dalton is a very gifted player that works hard on his game. Will is super athletic and keeps getting better each time he plays. We’re a little heavy at the top with those four, and they’ll definitely win a lot of matches for us. Those four are very good tennis players.”
Noah Nelson will play the five spot while the sixth one will go to either Omar Linares or Anthony Rhymer.
Pittman has a couple of solid assistant coaches in Tim Tugman and Craig Cox. He said the team had been
hard at work trying to get better.
“I can see us winning a lot of matches in those first four spots on the boys’ side, and we should be even better on girls. We’re talented, but they also have to work hard to try and get better. Our goal is to take the tennis team to another level this season. I feel like we’ve got two great assistant coaches and the talent to do this.”

JCHS Tennis
Schedule 2019
March
12 HAPPY VALLEY
(Girls only)
21 UNICOI
26 at Science Hill

APRIL
5 CHUCKEY DOAK
10 at Sullivan North
11 DOBYNS-BENNETT
23 HAPPY VALLEY
(Girls only)
25 at Chuckey Doak
30 at Sullivan Central

MAY
2 at Sullivan South

Longhorns loaded with experience

Front row, L-R: Jenna Horner, Alexis Hendley, Lindsey Wills, Natalie Winters, Emmy Miller, Abby Cornett, and Bella Miller. Second row, L-R: Tiffany Price, Cassidy Lakatos, Maddie Edington, Diamond Dibble, Hannah Brooks, and Jayla Gregg. Back row, L-R: Faith Walsh, Haley Cox, Hailey Rider, Sydney Potter, Morgan Murwin, Sarah Rider and Kirsten Day. Photo by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

It’s been an uphill battle for the Lady Longhorns on the softball diamond for the past few years but all that could change in 2019. Johnson County will have a new skipper at the controls but one that has enjoyed a ton of success at the Junior High Level.
Greg Reece has stepped into the head coaching role after guiding the middle school team for nearly a decade. His teams won the championship tournament last year, and all of the current players have performed under his guidance.
Reece is a workaholic having already done a lot of work to improve the playing field that includes a new warning track. He’s a hoping that his squad that returns eight starters can make like Stella and find their groove to compete with the likes of Elizabethton and Unicoi County.
“There is no doubt that our league is very good from top to bottom,” he said at a recent home basketball game. “Everyone has to go through Unicoi and Elizabethton to get down the road.”
Reece could have the talent to do just that if the cards will line up right. The team was in several close ball games last year, and he’s hoping that can change this time around.
“Last year’s team lost nine games by two runs or less. The defense was not bad at all, but we’ve have set a goal of allowing one less run per game and part of that is having the players in position to make plays and pitching to our strengths. But we can really impact our level of success by being better at the plate and on the bases. The players have really bought into what we did previously at JCMS with an aggressive attitude on the bases and a willingness to embrace the short game. You have to score runs because they don’t appear on the scoreboard manually. You have to manufacture them.
Reece has a few hitters that can put some points on the board.

JCHS Softball Schedule 2019

March
12 at Unicoi 5:30 Varsity, JV
14 Sullivan East 5:30 Varsity, JV
15 Unicoi Tournament 5:30 JV only
16 Unicoi Tournament TBA JV only
19 at Sullivan Central 5:30 Varsity, JV
21 Elizabethton 5:30 Varsity, JV
22 East Tenn Classic TBA Varsity
23 East Tenn Classic TBA Varsity, JV
24 Conf. JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
25 at University School 5:00 Varsity
29 at Hampton 5:30 Varsity, JV

APRIL
2 at Happy Valley 5:30 Varsity, JV
4 UNICOI 5:30 Varsity, JV
5 NFS Tournament 5:30 Varsity
6 NFS Tournament TBA Varsity
8 SULLIVAN SOUTH 5:30 Varsity, JV
9 at Sullivan East 5:30 Varsity, JV
11 Sullivan Central 5:30 Varsity, JV
12 at Northwood, Va. 5:00 Varsity
16 at Elizabethton 5:30 Varsity, JV
18 at Sullivan South 5:30 Varsity, JV
19 Hodge JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
20 Hodge JV Tournament TBA JV@EHS
23 HAMPTON (Senior Night) 5:00 Varsity, JV
26 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
27 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
28 Tiny Day Tournament TBA Varsity, JV
30 HAPPY VALLEY 5:30 Varsity, JV

May
1 Play-in date (#6 vs. #7) TBA if needed
2 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
3 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
6 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
7 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA
8 District Tourn. @ Sullivan E. TBA 13 Regional Playoffs TBA Top two teams from
15 Regional Playoffs TBA District advance
21 State Tournament TBA

Key Returning players
The Longhorns return one of Northeast, Tennessee’s better players in Hannah Brooks. The junior slugger was intentionally walked 27 times last year and is a threat to hit the ball out of the park every time up. She’ll also be the ace pitcher as well.
“We have to make teams pay when they do that. We have several players that can hit for power and we have some that can hit for average. We also got some that can excel with the short game or winning the bases. We coaches have to find the right combinations.”
The right side of the infield could be what Reece is looking for, and his starting sophomore catcher has the talent to play at the next level.
Emmy Miller is the team’s best athlete and can play several positions and can play them well. She will start behind the plate after hitting .402 last year.
Junior, Natalie Winters gets the nod at first base after hitting over .350 a year ago from her leadoff spot. She could be one to protect Brooks from being walked.
Lindsey Wills, one of two seniors on the team will play beside Winters at second base. Wills batted .300 last year and was the team’s leading hitter over the first half of it.
Sophomores Maddie Edington and Alexis Hendley will roam the other side of the infield at shortstop and third base.
The outfield will be built around junior speedster Abby Cornett who has proven to be one of the top defensive players in the conference. Senior Bella Miller will handle the left field duties while a much improved Diamond Dibble; a junior will likely get the nod in right or sophomore Cassidy Lakatos.
“Hendley and Lakatos are skilled utility players so they will likely play several spots,” added Reece. “Jayla Gregg, Hailey Cox, and Faith Walsh are all looking promising and could see some time on the field as freshmen. Miller will pitch some and Brooks will handle third base when that happens. Junior Tiffany Price is another versatile player who has worked hard and will and some much-needed depth to the team.

Freshman class
looks promising
Reece has some talented freshman on the team that includes Hailey Rider, Kirsten Day, Sarah Rider, Sydney Potter and Morgan Murwin in addition to Gregg, Cox, and Walsh.
That’s why Reece has scheduled a boatload of junior varsity games to get playing time for everyone on the roster. A few could pull some double duty as spot players on the varsity.

Final comments
from the coach
“Our two seniors, Wills, and Bella Miller will be outstanding leaders on this team,” added Reece. “They have shown that in our offseason workouts. Dibble is one of our most improved players. Our infield is very athletic, and our defensive strength lies in our outfield. Miller and Edington are our two best at their positions but might be even better at other positions.
Reece will be assisted by Emily Elliott Harrison and former Unaka Lady Rangers’ player who teaches criminal justice at JCHS. Abby Reece will also be on the staff, her fourth consecutive season helping her dad along with Robert Wills, who has coached baseball and softball for years and is also a Tennessee State Trooper. The younger Reece is a graduate student at ETSU.

Tall task awaits Longhorns’ baseball

Front row, L-R: Cameron Lackey, Jordan Poe, Andrew Whitaker, Ethan Icenhour, Asa Lewis, Dalton Stansberry, Jordan Bouchelle, Andrew Reece, Jacob Worlock and
Mason Bragg. Back row, L-R: Assistant Coach Michael Icenhour, Jayden Joiner, Reese Stout, Hayden Walker, Seth Condor, Ben Howard, Weston Throop, Stacy Greer, Petie Pavusek, Ty Warren, Eric Neely, Bradley Livorsi and Assistant Coach Eric Crabtree. Photo by Scoop Christian

By Scoop Christian

Commitment, dedication, and loyalty are three characteristics that one must have to be a successful coach and Johnson County’s Pete Pavusek has all the above. The dean of area baseball coaches will begin his 24th season as the Longhorns’ skipper having won 323 games, the most among current head coaches in Northeast, Tennessee.
Pavusek has accomplished his milestone in a league stacked with good teams from top to bottom and this year will be no different. Unicoi County and Elizabethton are expected to be at the top, and Sullivan South and Sullivan East are not far behind.
The weather elements haven’t been kind to the Longhorns either. Pavusek touched on the difficulties of trying to get some quality time in outside the gymnasium and battle tunnel.
“It’s been terrible this year,” said Pavusek. “It’s either cold, raining and now they’re calling for snow tonight. We’re trying to squeeze a few practices in, but it’s a never-ending battle with Mother Nature. It’s just something that we always have to deal with.”
Key returning players
The battery of Milligan College signee, Jayden Joiner and catcher Petie Pavusek, a three-year starter behind the plate will be the key cogs to try and help the Longhorns pull off some big wins over their league foes.
The Horns will also rely on junior Ben Howard and sophomore Stacy Greer to shore up the pitching staff.
“Ben and Petie have played together since Little League, so they have good chemistry for one another. Greer throws hard and has looked good as well. We have a chance anytime Jayden is on the mound.”
Pavusek hopes to get Reese Stout back in the lineup who has been nursing some knee issues.
“His gives us some power in the lineup and can hit the gaps. He’ll likely see some time at third and DH when he recovers.”
Greer will anchor center field when not on the mound. Howard and Joiner will alternate at shortstop when not pitching.
Some newcomers who have caught Pavusek’s eye are freshmen Asa Lewis, Ethan Icenhour, and senior Eric Neely. He also said that senior Weston Throop and junior Bradley Livorsi would see plenty of time in the lineup. Ty Warren is another player that the head coach is high on because of his versatility. Sophomore Jordan Bouchelle and freshman Seth Condor are two more players that have performed well and are improving each day.”
It’s tough to throw a few freshmen in there, but Lewis and Icenhour will have to step up their game and both are very capable. Neely played football along with Throop, and both of them are really good athletes. Warren is another kid who can help us too. We’ll count on Livorsi to give us some innings on the mound when he’s not playing third base. Mason Bragg is only a sophomore but will get the majority of playing time at second base.”

JCHS Baseball Schedule 2019
March
12 FCA 4:30 JV after
14 HAMPTON 4:30 JV after
18 Sullivan Central 6:30
19 at Sullivan Central 5:00 JV after
21 at Unaka 6:00
26 Sullivan East 5:00 JV after
27 at Sullivan East 5:00 JV after
29 at Patrick Henry, Va. 4:30
APRIL
1 Elizabethton 5:00 JV after
2 at Elizabethton 5:00 JV after
4 at DB Tourney TBA
5 at DB Tourney TBA
6 at DB Tourney TBA
8 at Happy Valley 5:00 JV after
9 HAPPY VALLEY 5:00 JV after
11 PATRICK HENRY, Va. 4:30
12 at FCA 4:30 JV after
15 at Sullivan South 5:00
16 SULLIVAN SOUTH 5:00
18 at Tennessee High 5:00 JV after
19 UNAKA 6:00
22 UNICOI 5:00
23 at Unicoi 5:00
25 at Hampton 4:30 JV after

 

Several lineup looks
Lewis will see plenty of time at first base as could Warren. Bragg will hold down the second base with Howard and Joiner flip-flopping between the mound and shortstop. Livorsi will play third base along with Stout who could DH or also see some time at first.
The outfield will have Greer in center, Icenhour in left and Throop in right. Neely will see time there too depending on the pitching rotation.
Lewis, Livorsi, Neely, Warren, and Throop could all log some innings on the mound, but Joiner, Howard, and Greer will be the staff’s aces.
Pavusek feels like the hitting and pitching is ahead of the defense at this point.
“We’ve not had a lot of reps on the field so the defense will improve as the players get time at their positions. I think our team could be pretty solid, but the league competition might be hard to overcome.
Pavusek tabbed Unicoi County and Elizabethton as the frontrunners with Sullivan South and Sullivan East right there in the mix.
“It’s the same almost every year. Unicoi and Elizabethton are always at the top and South will have a very good team. You can’t count out East and Sullivan Central is always a solid team.”
The Longhorns will open up with FCA on Tuesday and Hampton on March 14 at home before their first conference games with Sullivan Central on March 18 and 19. All league games will be played back-to-back on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“Our goal is to get better each day as the season goes along,” said Pavusek. “A lot of our key players are underclassmen, which is good, but I have seen the league being a little stronger this year because some of the better teams have a lot of players returning.”

Horns blow past Cyclones

JC’s Michael Oxentine (21) scores over Elizabethton’s Carter Everett (24). Oxentine’s 8 points helped the Horns
to prevail 65-56.
Photo by
Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

ELIZABETHTON—A strong Cyclone was downgraded to a gentle breeze by a superior team of Longhorns on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Region 1AA tournament. Johnson County punched its ticket into the sub-state game for the first time since 2003 by blowing past Elizabethton 65-56 before a standing room only crowd inside of Bayless Gymnasium at Happy Valley High School.
The Longhorns (27-5) will play Greeneville (22-10) in the Region 1-AA championship game, which defeated Sullivan South 67-64 in the other semifinal contest.
The winner of Friday’s game will play at home against Austin East (24-5) while the loser will travel to Knox Fulton (28-4) ranked No.1 in the final Associated Press Class AA poll.
All sub-state games begin at 7 p.m.
It will make only the fourth time in school history that the Horns have ever played in a sub-state game. Their only trip to the state tournament came in 1984.
But reaching the sub-state pinnacle didn’t come easy.
But it didn’t come easy.
Johnson County led 38-32 on Blake Atwood’s trey with 2:21 remaining in the third but starting guard Gavin Reece picked up his fourth foul and had to set before that. The Cyclones went on an 8-0 run with Reece out of the game to take a 40-38 lead going into the final quarter.
That didn’t sit well with head coach Austin Atwood who saw his team take two ill-advised shots and turn the ball over twice. He presented them a challenge over the final eight minutes.
“These kids grew up playing with one another over the years,” said Atwood. “I told them they were down to eight minutes and had worked for this moment since they were eight years old. It boiled down to who was going to box out and rebound and who wanted this thing the most. I could see that look of determination on their faces. I felt good when we went back out on the floor.”

A fast start by
the Longhorns
The Longhorns started the game strong and led by a baker’s dozen at one point 22-9 on a three-ball by Atwood. Elizabethton whittled away at the deficit over the next 11 minutes and finally was able to recapture the lead with their fans standing and cheering them on.
Nico Ashley’s basket to close the third quarter appeared to swing the momentum back in ‘Betsy’s favor, but it was all Longhorns from there.

Atwood’s mammoth fourth quarter
Atwood went hog wild and scored 18 points in the final quarter. His three-point play gave the Longhorns a 44-40 lead after Lucas Phillips had given them a one-point advantage by swishing a three-ball to start the period.
Elizabethton battled back behind the play of Eric Wilson to tie the game at 46 all, but the Horns would play lights out from there.
Atwood’s teardrop bucket down the lane banked in sweetly off the glass and then added a steal and layup that gave them a 50-47 advantage with 2:54 remaining in the game.
He touched on his shot that put them in front 48-47.
The Cyclones had closed to within one on Parker Hughes’ putback, but next came the three fatal blows.
Reece swished a three-ball, and Phillips added another one on a nice feed by Reece to make it 56-51. Atwood delivered the dagger with a five-point outburst that included a three-point play to put them up by 10 with 1:01 remaining.

Key Moments
Atwood definitely lived up to his billing as a Mr. Basketball finalist.
The senior guard delighted the crowd with 34 points, ten rebounds and five assists. Phillips added nine points on three treys including the two backbreakers in the fourth stanza, while Reece played phenomenal scoring eight points while dishing out five assists.
Eller recorded five steals and dogged the Cyclone guards the entire evening. Oxentine’s eight points and five rebounds were key contributions, and so was the pinpoint passing on the interior and screens set by Troy Arnold.

Johnson Co. 10 15 13 27 -65
Elizabethton 4 15 21 16 – 56

Longhorns stumble to Greeneville

JC’s Zack Eller (5) scores on a drive over Greeneville’s Jaevon Gillespie (24). Eller had 12 points, and four steals but his team lost 61-58. Gillespie was the MVP of the tournament. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

ELIZABETHTON—Johnson County came up three points short of hosting its first sub-state game since 1984 and what would have been the school’s second one ever at home.
The Longhorns fell to state icon Greeneville 61-58 in the Region 1-AA championship game played before a capacity crowd inside of Bayless Gymnasium at Happy Valley High School on Friday.
The heartbreaking loss came only two nights after their biggest win of the year, a 65-56 victory over rival Elizabethton in the semifinals. Greeneville won the state championship in football and one of its marquee all-state performers played a big role in the basketball victory.
Jaevon Gillespie scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half for the Green Devils who won its third consecutive regional tournament game by three points. He was selected as the tournament’s MVP.
The Longhorns battled to the very end and after falling behind 61-52 with 18 seconds remaining. Gavin Reece connected with a three-ball with 9.2 seconds showing.
Greeneville was unable to convert two free throws, and Blake Atwood got fouled after draining a long trey with 2.1 seconds left. The senior guard missed his charity toss intentionally but the effort to tip the ball out to the corner to a wide-open Reece failed, and the Devils walked away with the win.
“We didn’t play our best, and they had something to do with that,” said Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood. “We can’t zone very well, and we didn’t rebound well, and that was critical. We tried to play a zone three different times, and they hit two treys, and then they got a three-point play on the other possession. We can only go about six to seven deep, and that makes it tough when you play a team like them that goes 11 and 12 deep. But our kids battled their tails off to the very end, and Greeneville is one of the best defensive teams that we’ve gone up against. They’re probably top five in the state. We’ll play the best one on Monday night in Knox Fulton.”

Close first half
Points were hard to come by in the first quarter as Johnson County held an 8-6 advantage after one thanks to five points by Atwood and a three-ball from Reece.
A three-ball by Atwood and back-to-back steals and layups by Zack Eller pushed the Longhorns’ lead at 14-9 to start the second quarter. Greeneville stayed in the game due to numerous trips to the charity stripe.
Conner Debusk had eight points in the quarter including six that came from the charity stripe. His two free throws to end the half allowed Greeneville to push in front 21-20.
All six free throws were the result of second-chance points due to Johnson County’s inability to keep Greeneville off the glass.

Trading punches
Greeneville got on top 28-26 early in the third quarter, but Atwood’s four-point play after swishing a three would allow the Horns to regain the lead at 30-28.
The Longhorns continued to struggle to keep Greenville off the glass which was probably the primary reason for the loss. The Green Devils had 12 offensive rebounds, and nine were turned into second-chance points.
Tyler Marsh’s tied the game at 31 all on an offensive rebound that was turned into a three-point play with 2:25 remaining in the third.
Greeneville seized the momentum and went up by five, but Eller’s steal and layup and another three-point play by Atwood would allow them to retake the lead at 36-35.
The critical point in the game came during the fourth quarter on two critical Longhorn miscues. They failed to box out on two different possessions that Greeneville turned into points.
Bryce Buchanan ran down a loose ball and later connected on a three. His also fed Marsh on the inside for a basket with 4:33 remaining that put them back on top 46-40.
Eller got them back within three by swishing a three-ball on Johnson County’s next possession, but Buchanan and Gillespie would counter by scoring a basket each that led to their nine-point cushion. The Horns desperation rally at the end came up three points short, and they now must travel to Fulton for their sub-state contest.

Final comments
The Longhorns are now 27-6 after being picked to finish fifth in the conference to start the season. Atwood knows that Fulton is a different animal.
“We’re one win away from playing in the state tournament. We’ve made it tougher on ourselves going to Fulton because they’re well coached with Jody Wright on the bench. They are probably one of the better half-court-man defensive teams you’re ever going to see. That’s a great challenge for us. And our kids like a challenge.”

Johnson Co. 8 12 16 22 -58
Greeneville 6 15 16 24 – 61

Pesky Longhorns fall at Fulton

 

JC’s Blake Atwood (11) drives past Fulton’s Trey Davis (2) toward the hoop. Atwood fired 35 points in a 90-76
sub-state loss to Fulton. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

KNOXVILLE—Johnson County went into Jody Wright Arena as a heavy underdog, but the Falcons found themselves in a fight for their lives. That was until two questionable technical foul calls flipped the game and swung the momentum in Knox Fulton’s favor.
The Longhorns played one of its best games of the year but was on the losing end of a 90-76 contest that left many of their fans furious at what they witnessed over a 45-second-span.
The Falcons (26-4) were picked to run roughshod over the Horns but found themselves in a 35-35 tie game at the half. It probably would have been anybody’s contest until the fathom technical fouls turned the game a 180.
The Falcons scored eight points in a 45-second-span with six coming at the foul line. Johnson County’s head coach Austin Atwood was not pleased with all with the two calls.
“It turned the game around, it definitely did,” said Atwood. “My guys have to be smarter and know what the situation is. 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. He’s done a great job for 30 some years so we knew coming in that we’d have to play the perfect game and them not play the perfect game for us to win. If we play perfect and they play perfectly then, they beat us by 20. If we played good and they had an off night, then we had a chance, and I thought we gave ourselves a chance. For 28 minutes we controlled the game, but we couldn’t rebound with them because of their physicality. Jody does a great job of letting his kids play that way, and they do a great job at it. What we thought was a box out at home is not one here. You have to get into them because they are just too athletic.”

The first half played on dead even terms
Gavin Reece hit a long trey to start the game, but Fulton ran off six straight to go up 8-3. Johnson County used a deuce by Blake Atwood and Zack Eller’s three-ball to tie the game at 8-8.
Atwood ended the quarter with 10 points, and Reece added six as the Horns played nearly even and trailed 22-21 after one.
Atwood put the Horns back in front by one with a bucket to start the second, but Fulton stretched it out to a 27-23 lead on a pair of buckets by Deshawn Page, who was voted Mr. Football in Class 3A
this year and has already signed with Marshall University.
The Longhorns refused to be intimidated as Michael Oxentine scored in the paint and Reece bagged his third 3-ball to put them back in front at 28-27 at the 3:45 mark. The Horns closed the period with Atwood’s third trey and a basket by Eller on a nice little floater.
The Horns went into halftime tied 35-35 with the Falcons.

Game changer
The Longhorns continued to play their tails off after Fulton scored the first eight points in the third quarter with the help of a trey each from Tommy Sweat and Trey Davis. Eller broke the Longhorns’ drought with a bucket while Atwood and Reece drained a pair of trifectas that got them within four at 49-45.
Fulton’s Edward Lacey drove the lane and was foul on the drive that followed with a technical foul on Oxentine. He hit 3-of-4 three throws, and Fulton scored eight points in 45 seconds to go up 57-45.
Oxentine was ejected from the game for picking up his second technical foul for what his coach was told, stirring down the opposing player but it sure didn’t appear that way, and I was sitting on the floor in front of the play.

Tell it like it is
The irony about this whole mess was that several times when Atwood was knocked to the floor, the Fulton players were allowed to stand over him clapping their hands and taunting in approval. And not one time were they whistled for a technical foul or even warned.
Despite the inconsistency, there was no quit in the Longhorns who played their hearts out to the bitter end.
Fulton stretched their lead at 82-64, but the Horns battled back with a fury. Reece hit a three, Troy Arnold a deuce and Atwood a three-ball in addition to converting 4-of-4 from the foul line at one stretch that got them within ten at 86-76.
Coach Atwood then showed his class by allowing senior reserves Zack Winters and Luke Rash to enter the game and finish out the final minute of their careers against the Fulton starters.
The Horns made 17-of-19 free throws in the game and 13 shots from behind the three-point line. Fulton went to the line 35 times but made only 18.

Game leaders
Atwood proved he was worthy of being named a Mr. Basketball finalist by torching the Falcons for a game-high 35 points and a team-high six rebounds. He connected on six treys including two from the 30-foot range and was 11-for-11 from the foul line.
He said they came to Fulton looking to win, not for respect.
“We were playing with a chip on our shoulder because everyone had doubted us all year,” said the younger Atwood. “Our mentality was that we could come in here and win. We weren’t about to lay down for them. I would go to battle with my teammates anytime. We proved a lot of people wrong this year. This was the best group of friends that you could ever play with.”
Reece had his best overall game of the season with 19 points and four assists. He hit five shots behind the three-point arc including a couple that was from the downtown, K-town range. He said the team’s heart and their willingness not to quit was what kept them in the game.
“We’ve never passed the eye test all season because they picked us to finish fifth and nobody expected us to be here,” said Reece. “The game got away from us after the technical fouls and their fast break points and offensive rebounding. The guys coming back have to get in the gym and keep getting better. This year has been as good as it gets.”
Eller agreed with Reece about the season and showed his athleticism by contributing 12 points and five rebounds in his final game as a Longhorn. He said it was tough playing through the stretch where Fulton went on the 8-0 run in the third.
“They hit their free throws after the technical was called and then they got a few transition points during that stretch,” said Eller. “We played as hard as we could, but it seems like they got several calls in the third quarter. It’s hard to overcome that against a good team like them. “
Page led the Falcons with 26 points and ten rebounds. It could have been more, but he was 4-of-13 from the charity stripe. Lacy added 22 points before fouling out with 2:06 remaining. Trey Davis and Tommy Sweat tallied 11 and 10 points respectively giving the Falcons four players in double figures.
The game was well played in the first half as each team committed only five fouls each.
Johnson County who was playing their first sectional game since 2006 finished the year at 26-7. Atwood applauded them from their outstanding body of work and team chemistry.
“These kids are a close-knit group that knew their roles and did them to the best of their abilities. That’s the reason that this team is so special. I’ve coached for a long time, and I’ve never had a group of kids like this. In 69 practices, I did not have one day where I dreaded going. 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 for years to come.”
Senior Troy Arnold credited his coaches and teammates for the outstanding ride they had. He was the quarterback on the football team that went 9-2 and made the playoffs.
“Some people didn’t know about Johnson County, but I believe they do now,” said Arnold. “We had something prove, and I believe that we did that. Our coaches were the best, and I couldn’t have played with any better teammates. It’s definitely a year that I’ll always remember. If I ever have any downtime I want to be with the guys on this team.”
Fulton will move on to play in the state tournament at Murfreesboro. It will be their fourth appearance in five years having won one and reaching the title game twice including last year.

Johnson Co. 21 14 13 28 -76
Knox Fulton 22 13 28 27 -90

Precious memories forever

Tomahawk Talk

By Tim Chambers

Sports Editor

To quote Juliet’s famous line to Romeo, “parting is such sweet sorrow,” is just how I feel as I write my farewell letter to all the Tomahawk readers and the wonderful citizens of Johnson County.
I got a call back in September of 2014 from our previous editor Angie Gambill to see if I was interested in taking over sports at the Tomahawk.
I didn’t accept the position on her first call but somehow felt that God was leading me to give it a try. Angie and I spoke again, and this time I accepted.
I’ll never forget her inspiring words. “You know a whole lot more about sports than I do so it’s yours. Give the readers whatever you think they will like.”
And so the five-and-a-half year journey began.
It was the first year for head football coach Don Kerley and his staff, so we formed an immediate friendship. I learned quickly that he and his brother assistant coach Tom were two Christian men that cared about the youth of Johnson County. I had the utmost respect for them and their entire coaching staff.
For the past two seasons, the Longhorns have been state-ranked in the Class 3A state poll for 20 consecutive weeks. They were 11-1 in 2017 that including a perfect 10-0 regular season.
They were 9-1 in 2018 and 9-2 overall. That’s 20-3 over two seasons.
It didn’t change those men one bit. Their staff treated me with the utmost respect, and I will always be a big fan of each of them.
I can’t say enough about my feelings toward our boys and girls basketball coaches.
Austin Atwood is a man who does so much for the kids at JCHS that many in the community don’t know about. I’ve watched him buy shoes, clothes, and food and be a father figure to so many of them.
Somehow he finds time to be the Athletic Director and still coach his younger son Carter’s football team.
He put together a great season last year winning 22 games and advancing to the regional tournament, but this year he topped that.
The Longhorns are currently 26-5 giving Atwood one of his best seasons ever. And nobody is more deserving.
Coach Leon Tolley and his staff have elevated girls’ basketball to another level, and I can’t wait to follow them next year. He has a passion for the kids and his teaching position and is one of the best in the business. I can’t wait to see what next season hold for them.
I’ll miss both these men and their staffs.
I couldn’t have handpicked a better group to have worked with or been around.
I loved getting to be around our legendary baseball coach Pete Pavusek. He’s won more than 315 games and does not get the recognition he deserves as being one heck of a baseball coach.
I learned last year not to ask Coach Pete if he needed anything. I was the first base coach at Sullivan Central for one game, and we lost.
I was back writing the following day, and Pavusek’s Longhorns defeated Central at home ending my brief high school coaching gig.
You’re the best Coach Pete. I’m really going to miss you, but I’ll be back
around.
I can say the same about former softball coaches Angela Blevins and Dana Smith. They made me love the sport, and in return, I loved both of them. I felt like I was part of the Lady Longhorns and I’ll be forever grateful.
I loved covering the tennis program last year and also the golf team. Those kids don’t get as much sports coverage as they deserve but they are some of the best and so are their coaches Zack Pittman, Craig Cox, Tim Tugman, and Eric Crabtree.
You guys mean the world to me and I will be back to watch your teams play.
I’m expecting a state championship from Taylor and Oliva Cox in doubles down
at Murfreesboro. You girls rock.
The junior high coaches, Devin Shaw, Julian Crews, and Sarah Swift are wonderful people. Thank you for treating me with so much respect, and you all have wonderful assistant coaches especially Chris Dunbar, one of my former players.
I owe a great deal to current high school softball head coach Greg Reece for being a true friend and a
role model to so many of the kids. I hope your team can earn a berth in the sub-state game because you can bet I’ll be there pulling for you all.
A special thanks to Angie Gambill for taking a chance on me along with our publisher Bill Thomas and former assistant editor Paula Walters. You guys were my support group, Christian family and three of the best people that I’ve ever worked with.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I owe so much to my friends for life, Tom Reece, Brad Reece, David Arnold, Tameula Trivett, Ann Parsons, Nathan Winters, and Jeff Crowder. You guys have been my eyes for me over the past several seasons, helping me in areas where I could do a much better job. I will
always value your friendships.
I can’t write this column without giving a shout out to two of the best friends that I ever had in Gary Woodard and Steven Marshall. You guys were a blessing to me and our youth, here in Johnson County. Heaven holds a place for those like you, and so does my heart.
These old eyes of mine can no longer see the football field as I did years ago and they strain to watch a basketball game from a short distance. But I’ll never
complain because God has truly blessed me beyond measure.
One of those blessings was allowing me to be
your sports editor for five years plus and being part
of a community that has
been my home away from home. I’ll have precious memories forever. I love you all.
Until we meet again.

Tim Chambers
“Longhorn for life”

Little League final signups on Saturday

Caden Blevins urges all of his friends and school buddies to sign up for
Little League Baseball on Saturday. The times are from 9 am to noon at
Cunningham Park. Photo by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

The Johnson County Little League will hold its final signups on Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon at Cunningham Park inside the board room.
This will be the last chance for anyone wanting to play to get registered.
The cost to sign up a player is $45 dollars and $70 dollars if you are signing up two children.
If this is your first time signing up the league will need 3 copies of your address along with a copy of your child’s birth certificate.
The league urges you to bring copies and not the originals.
The Johnson County Little League is always looking for volunteers to work within the organization.
If you are interested in coaches or volunteering your time to help in other areas please see league president Brian Day at the field on Saturday.

Longhorns joust Black Knights from tourney

Members of the Johnson County Longhorns Corie Neely, Zack Eller, Ian Norris , Blake Atwood,
Lucas Philips, Darren Cunningham, Trevor Gentry, Michael Oxentine, Ethan Bower, Clayton Cross,
Zack Parsons, Gavin Reece, Luke Rash, Troy Arnold and Zack Winters pose for a photo earlier this month. The team won its first regional game in six years in the first round of the Region
1-AA tournament, by defeating C-Doak 62-47. The Longhorns will play Elizabethton at 4:30 on Wednesday at Happy Valley with a sub-state berth on the line. The two teams split games during
the regular season. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

Wesley Darnell, more than a manager

By Tim Chambers

You won’t find his name in a box score or listed on the players’ roster but nobody is more valuable to Johnson County basketball that what Wesley Darnell is.
He carries the title of team manager but the coaches and players joke around and refer to him as the assistant athletic director. A more fitting title could be student athletic director.
Wesley always has a smile for everyone and he grinned when I asked him what his primary role was to the team.
“I keep the book or run the clock when they need me to,” said Darnell. “I help Coach Austin Atwood with all the home and away game duties. I make sure officials and working people have places to park. Whatever needs to be done I try and do it. I love being around both basketball teams.”
Wesley has a full plate and then some. He’s not your average high school junior. He touched on a few of his weekend duties.
“I am a member of the Johnson County EMS and the 2nd District Volunteer Fire Department. I help them out a lot. I carry a pager for them so that keeps me busy going on calls. I just want to stay active and keep doing things. I also love my Lord because he’s first in my life.”
Wesley participated in sports up to his seventh grade year but a serious illness ended his playing days. He’s not bitter because of it but chose to find another way to be around the game.
“I’ve always had a love for sports but had to quit playing due to my health condition, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve played ball with a lot of these guys up until junior high. I can do this and stay around the game so that’s the next best thing. I hope to get a degree one day in sports management or sports medicine of some sort. I want to stay close to the sidelines.”
Wesley said the arthritis affects his lower back and knees. Still he keeps on trucking like the Energizer Bunny.
”I love working in the gym and being around all my buddies. I enjoy watching all of them play and see how they have progressed from a lower lever to where they are at now.”
Head boys basketball coach and athletic director Austin Atwood knows Darnell’s worth. He praised him for all the things he provides for the team.
“You couldn’t find a better young man anywhere,” said Atwood. “I’ve had two great managers since I’ve been here and he’s one of them. He does things for us behind the scenes that nobody ever sees but us. He’s a huge part of both basketball teams. The kids all love him to death.”
Wesley has been given a couple of nicknames. Many refer to him as Little Austin (Austin Atwood) or Little Lester (Lester Dunn).
I’m always doing something for both of them,” added Darnell. I love working with Coach Atwood, Coach Leon Tolley, Coach Kechia Eller, Coach David Arnold and Coach Garry Smith. They all respect me highly and they make me feel like I’m part of the team. That means the world to me. And Lester has treated me good ever since I came up here.”
Wesley is the son of Heather Man and Travis Darnell.
“Mom is my role model and my dad lives in another county. He’s good to me too when I get to see him.”
Wesley couldn’t define one special moment that he has had as a manager.
“Every day I get out of bed and come to school
is special. Every day I get to be at practice or the games are special too. I enjoy life and I try and live it to the fullest. My biggest love is being a Longhorn. This school means the world to me.”

Region 1-AA Boys Tournament

Region 1-AA Boys Tournament
Saturday, Feb. 23
All the first round games below being at 7:00 pm.
Johnson County at either Chuckey-Doak or Greeneville
Unicoi County at either Greeneville or Chuckey-Doak
Grainger Co. or South Greene at Elizabethton
Grainger Co. or South Greene at Sullivan South

Semi-Finals
at Happy Valley High School,
Bayless Gymnasium

Tuesday, Feb. 26
Semifinals 6:00 pm.
Semifinals 7:45 pm.

Thursday, Feb. 28
Championship 7:00 pm.

Sub-State
Monday, Mar. 4, — 7:00
Region 1-AA champions play at home,
runner-up on the road

Rebels eliminate Lady Horns

JC’s Sadie Stout (23) looks to knock down a shot vs. Unicoi County. Stout had a game-high 23 points, but the Horns lost 58-50. Photos by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

ELIZABETHTON—The will to win was there for the Lady Longhorns, but the legs appeared to fade away after a hard-fought win
the night before against Sullivan East. Johnson County battled Unicoi County the entire way before falling
58-50 in the quarterfinals
of the District 1-AA tournament inside of Bayless
Gymnasium at Happy
Valley High School on Thursday.
It was a hard pill to swallow for the Lady Longhorns who dominated play in the first half from the opening tip. They were once again without the services of their second leading scorer and rebounder Taylor Parsons, and a few of the starters played under the weather.
Fatigue could have been a factor for the team who already were thin on the bench. Head coach Leon Tolley didn’t touch on that factor. He instead pointed a brief stretch in the game where the Lady Blue Devils used some long-range shooting to take the lead.
“I’m tickled to death about the way we played because that’s two nights in a row that we really played well,” said Tolley. “We went through a stretch for about three minutes where we got lost on
defense, and we let them stand there and shoot the three. When they switched to a zone, we missed a few shots and finally got frustrated and a little hesitant, and that’s when they stretched it out. But I couldn’t be any prouder of this basketball team.”
The game was close in the first quarter as Taylor Cox lit up the Blue Devils for 10 points in the frame
while Caroline Podvin
tossed in eight for Unicoi County.
The Blue Devils took a 15-11 lead on Tenley Holt’s runner in the final
30 seconds but Natalie
Winters’ answered by converting a three-point play in the final seconds leaving the Horns trailing 15-14 after one.
The tide turned in the second quarter thanks to the outstanding play by Johnson County’s sophomore duo of Sadie Stout and Emmy Miller. Stout got hot and fired in eight points while Miller collected five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in the frame.
Johnson County’s defense held the Lady Blue Devils to five points in the quarter and opened up a 27-24 halftime lead.
South rallied in the third and managed to regain the lead after outscoring the Longhorns 17-11 in the
quarter. They took a 41-38 lead going into the final period.
Johnson County tried to regain the momentum after Stout drained a three-ball to tie the game at 41 al, but the Blue Devils would have an answer.
They proceeded to outscore the Horns 11-2 capped off by Kaylee Hendrickson’s three-ball to surge in front 52-43 with 4:03 remaining in the game. That three-minute stretch was the one Tolley was referring to that did them in.
Stout didn’t start the game but recorded a game-high 23 points for the Longhorns. Cox contributed 15 points, and five rebounds and Emmy Miller provided seven points and six boards. Winters tallied five points and three assists, completing the four players to score for the Horns.
That wasn’t the case for Unicoi County who featured a well-balanced scoring attack.
Podvin led the Blue Devils with 15 points while Ashton Vance added 10 points and ten rebounds. Hendrickson and Allee Griffeth gathered nine points apiece while Chloe Powers and Holt added eight and seven points respectively.
Unicoi County had 14 offensive rebounds that accounted for 21-second-chance points.
The Lady Longhorns will return every player on the roster next season. They finished the year at 14-16.

District 1-AA quarterfinals
Unicoi County 58,
Johnson County 50

JOHNSON COUNTY (50)
Stout 23, Cox 15, Miller 7, Winters 5, Cornett 0, Kleine 0, Icenhour 0.

UNICOI COUNTY (58)
Podvin 15, Vance 10, Griffith 9, Hendrickson 9, Holt 7, Powers 8,

JCHS 14 13 11 12 -50
Unicoi C. 19 5 17 17 -58

3-point goals—JC 2 (Stout 2) UC 7 (Podvin 3, Powers 2, Hendrickson 2)

Tomahawk talk: A whole lot left to play for

By Tim Chambers

Tournament time is usually filled with a lot of exciting games and plenty of upsets. That was the case on Saturday when Sullivan South defeated #9 ranked Johnson County 58-50 in the semifinals of the District 1-AA tournament.
The Horns watched as the Rebels celebrated which left a bad taste in the mouths of many Johnson County fans. But here is my message to fans, players and even coaches.
Put it behind you and get over it. We have a whole lot left to play for, and it began on Tuesday.
Johnson County did its part during the regular season by securing its self an automatic berth into the regional tournament by finishing in a tie with Elizabethton for the Three Rivers Conference Championship.
And remember that tournament time produces a lot of upsets? The same thing happened in the District 2 semifinal game.
Chuckey-Doak defeated top seed South Greene 57-56 and propelled the Black Knights to the championship game.
They play Greeneville in the championship game on Tuesday, a team they lost to 82-57 during the regular season. So now things are starting to shape up.
Let’s assume that Greeneville defeats C-D in the championship game and Johnson County was to beat Unicoi County for the third time in the third-place game. Now it starts to get interesting.
Longhorn fans should remember last year’s first-round regional tournament game at home. Chuckey-Doak came into our house and stole a 66-64 win by knocking down a layup off a steal at the buzzer.
Many felt like Blake Atwood got knocked down and was fouled and I totally agree with their observation.
The Longhorns should need no motivation if it comes to playing at Chuckey-Doak on Tuesday. Wouldn’t it be karma if we could go inside their house and end their season just like they did to us last year?
Is it possible? You tell me.
The Black Knights and Longhorns have played several common opponents. They were beaten by Unicoi County twice and lost to Sullivan South 60-41.
They also lost to Happy Valley 46-28 in a Christmas tournament at Sullivan North but won inside of Bayless Gymnasium over the Warriors 42-24 back on January 4.
They lost to Hampton 60-55 at home in their final regular season game. They finished 5-6 in league play and were the fourth seed going into the District Tournament.
So what does this mean to Johnson County? It means nothing at the moment.
Johnson County had to take care of business in the third-place game on Tuesday and defeat Unicoi County for the third time. If they did and Greeneville prevailed then all their attention could be aimed at the Black Knights.
Game time would be at 7 p.m. in Afton.
A loss could send them to Greeneville who nearly defeated Dobyns-Bennett before falling 54-51. It’s enough to confuse all of us.
But be assured that Johnson County has a whole lot left to play for.
Hopefully, it all starts on Saturday night at Chuckey-Doak.

A tip of the hat to the
Lady Longhorns
I found another bit of history while searching the archives and learning that the Lady Longhorns hadn’t won a District tournament game in 24 years. Their 14 wins this year is the most ever by the girl’s program.
Johnson County won 13 games back in the day when Scotty Bunton was the head coach, and Elisha Milan was a junior. Milan is the girl’s all-time leading scorer and holds the single-game scoring record.
She had 51 points against Cloudland that year breaking her record of 50 points scored in a game. She averaged over 31 points per game that season.
The current Lady Longhorns will return everyone next season along with Adrian Hall who led the team in scoring as a sophomore.
Let us give a tip of the cap to Coaches Leon Tolley, Garry Smith and Kechia Eller for a job well done.
Tim Chambers is the sports editor for the Tomahawk and can be reached by email at tomahawksportseditor@gmail.com.

Longhorns baffled by South

 

JC’s Blake Atwood (11) goes between two South defenders to score in the first quarter. Atwood scored a game-high 22 points, but the Horns lost 58-50. Photo by Tim Chambers.

By Tim Chambers

ELIZABETHTON—Johnson County’s 19-game winning streak was ended on Saturday and thus ended its chance of hosting a first-round regional game at home. The Longhorns lack of offense for three quarters led to their 58-50 loss to Sullivan South in the District 1-AA semifinals played inside of Bayless Gymnasium at Happy Valley High School.
It was a bitter loss for the Horns who had to battle through what fans felt were some questionable calls and lack of along with the derogatory chants that were spewed out by South’s student section for 32 minutes behind their team’s bench.
South went to the foul line 24 times and made 18. Johnson County hit 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, and Atwood went only three times despite drawing more attention than President Donald Trump would at a Golden Corral buffet bar.
The bizarre events were things that great teams must be able to play through and the Longhorns simply failed to do so which led to their loss. Johnson County found a way to steal a 46-44 win just eight days before Saturday’s loss that allowed them to share the conference championship with Elizabethton.

A repeat was not
in the cards
It was a night where Mr. Basketball finalist Blake Atwood had to work for every point he gathered and was primarily guarded by two defenders, a clever move on the Rebels part. They triangled Atwood when he got the ball, forcing the remaining Longhorns to knock down shots which they didn’t until the fourth quarter.
The Horns managed to grab a 14-11 lead after one and Atwood tallied 10 of those including a pair of treys, but nobody else was able to contribute very much in the first half.
Johnson County was held without a field goal in the second quarter until reserve Clayton Cross bagged a three-ball with 30 seconds remaining to tie the game at 17 all. Lucas Phillips put the Horns on top with a pair of free throws, but a three-ball by Gavin Parker at the buzzer gave South the halftime lead at 20-19.
South’s defense continued to focus on Atwood in the third quarter electing to trap around the 30 feet range and cutting off all driving lanes to the bucket, but it was he who kept the Horns in the hunt.
Atwood scored nine of the team’s 12 points, yet they trailed 35-31 heading into the final stanza.
South continued to pressure the Horns by going on a 9-3 run over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. Chase Bowery’s putback of an offensive rebound gave the Rebels a double-digit advantage at 44-34, but the Horns refused to go away.
Atwood ignited a 10-2 run by connecting on a long three-pointer that woke up the likes of Gavin Reece and Lucas Phillips.
Phillips and Reece bagged back-to-back treys that cut South’s lead at 46-44 with 2:50 remaining but Bowery and Ben Diamond would crush their comeback hopes.
Bowery made a nice spin move in the paint to score while Diamond added four quick points that stretched it back to 52-44 with 1:10 remaining.
The Horns played with a lot of heart down the stretch but had dug themselves to big a hole to walk away with another comeback win.
Phillips connected on his third trey in the quarter that pulled them within four at 54-50 with 32 ticks remaining, but Bowery’s layup would seal the deal with 14 seconds showing giving South (21-12) an unpredicted trip into the championship game.
Bowery ended the night with 12 points and ten rebounds for the Rebels. Last year he missed a close jumper that would have won the game at Johnson County that resulted in a 64-63 loss. He also said the defeat they suffered on a senior night left a bad taste in their mouths.
“Last year Coach Atwood told me that we had a lot of talent and we’d go far yet we ended up losing in the first round of the district,” said Bowery. “So we’ve always had that push to beat them.”
Atwood scored a game-high 22 points and also added five rebounds and four assists. South’s head coach Michael McMeans acknowledged that the game plan was to make the others beat them.
“You pick and choose your battles when you’ve got a Mr. Basketball finalist on the opposing team,” said McMeans. “They have plenty of guys that can shoot the ball and make shots, but tonight we chose to make it tough on
him and make the others beat us. Tonight it went in our favor.”
The majority of Johnson County’s fourth-quarter offense came from Phillips and Reece. They combined to hit 5-of-8 from behind the three-point line over the final seven minutes plus.
Phillips finished with 11 points while Reece added eight.
Diamond led the Rebels with 13 points officially while Cole Layne chipped in with 11.
Coach Atwood knew the Horns were in for a long night as the game played on.
“I knew if they stayed in the game early that it was going to be a long night,” he said. “I was just hoping we could put them away early and maybe make some big shots and get on a roll. And I knew when that didn’t happen we were going to be in a grind. They’re bigger, stronger and faster than we are, and shoot the ball just as well. Michael (McMeans) does a good job of coaching them, and they are very talented with a lot of quickness and size.”
Atwood went on to praise his team after winning 19 straight games before Saturday’s loss. He pointed out the key to their success.
“We’re definitely not the most talented team in our league, maybe not even in the top three. But we play good together. I’m not disappointed with them at all. South’s outplayed us that last two games, and that’s the bottom line. They deserved to win tonight. We’ve now got to bounce back and find a way to defeat Unicoi County.”
The Blue Devils (9-22) lost to Elizabethton (21-6) by a score of 55-38 in the other semi-final contest.

District 1-AA semi-finals
Sullivan South 58,
Johnson County 50

SULLIVAN SOUTH (58)
Diamond 13, Bowery 12, Layne 11, Parker 8, Chase 6, Elledge 6, Pollack 2, Johnson 0, Necessary 0

JOHNSON COUNTY (50)
Atwood 22, Phillips 11, Reece 8, Arnold 5, Eller 0, Cross 3, Oxentine 1

Sullivan S. 11 9 15 23 -58
JCHS 14 5 12 19 -50

3-point goals—South 4 (Elledge 2, Parker 1, Diamond 1) JC 9 (Atwood 3, Phillips 3, Reece 2, Cross 1)

Horns wash away two decade old drought

JC’s Hazlee Kleine (15) battles for a rebound against Sullivan East. Kleine played a key role in their 64-60 District 1-AA win Photo by Tim Chambers.

ELIZABETHTON—Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Lady Longhorns’ basketball program, but a 24-year drought is finally over. The girls won their first district tournament game in more than two decades by knocking off Sullivan East 64-60 on Wednesday night inside of Bayless Gymnasium at Happy Valley High School. It was a magnificent performance by Lady Horns who are still without Taylor Parsons, their second-leading scorer and rebounder. Head coach Leon Tolley and his assistant coaches; Garry Smith and Kechia are to be commended for elevating the program to where it is in such a short time.
In “Bob, the builder” fashion they came up with the perfect blueprint to not only end the drought but to beat a team who had defeated them twice during the regular season. It was a hard puzzle to piece according to Tolley.
“Even though we had Parsons out and Sadie Stout was sick, I used an old J.C. Campbell quote that I’ve seen sicker cats get well quick,” said Tolley. “The thing they did tonight played hard, and they played for each other. They believed they could win. We made some shots and got a lot of confidence, but every time we tried to pull away, East came back. The first two times that happened this year we wilted and died, but sometimes you’ve got to get tired of losing before you are ready to win. I’m glad tonight they got tired of losing. To see the look on their faces after the game was worth it all. We’re happy to be coming back tomorrow night.”
The Lady Horns sprang out of the gate early by taking a 9-4 lead capped off the Taylor Cox’s steal and layup at the 3:02 mark. Cox and Emmy Miller had four points, and Sadie Stout knocked down a three, but the Horns tailed 12-11 after East closed the frame on an 8-2 run.
The second quarter resulted in a big momentum swing for the Lady Longhorns.
They opened the quarter with Stout sinking a three-ball and four quick points by Cox to grab a 19-12 advantage. Winters put them up by double digits by knocking down a trey that made it 24-14 with 3:13 left before halftime.
East would whittle away at the deficit using five points by Emma Aubrey to try and get closer. They trailed the Horns 26-22 at intermission.
Johnson County (14-15) needed a strong offensive showing in the third quarter to keep pace with the Lady Patriots. Winters and Hazlee Kleine had early buckets that held the lead safe while Cox and Miller combined for 13 points in the frame.
The Lady Longhorns held a 45-39 lead going into the final frame and appeared bound and determined to end the 24-year drought with a district win.
East tried to get back in the game by applying some full-court pressure defense, but the Horns simply threw the ball over top of it.
Cox made it 49-40 by hitting one of her two breakaway layups, and she also hit some clutch free throws down the stretch.
“We were finding the gaps in their defense, and everybody did a great job of passing the ball,” said Cox. “We were trying to look for the open shots, and we played tonight as a team because we didn’t want East to beat us again.”
East sliced the deficit to 61-58 with 45 seconds remaining on Kylee Wolfe’s three but Winters and Cox hit three of four free throws that gave the Horns a 64-58 advantage.
A huge factor in the win was the six points scored in the fourth quarter by Abby Cornett. She hit a basket and two free throws after East had got within one possession twice of trying the game.
“Coach Tolley told us to settle down once they cut it to three and play the way we were capable,” added Winters. “I thought Abby (Cornett) played a good game and so did Hazlee Kleine and Rhiannon Icenhour. That was important without Taylor Parsons being able to play. We wanted to win this one for her and our coaches.”
Tolley applauded the play of everyone.
“Abby played well down the stretch, but our entire team did. I thought both teams played well. We just got lucky and made another play or two. Our bench was as thin as a pauper’s wallet, but we somehow managed to survive.”
The win was sweet for the Horns who lost 51-40 at home to the Lady Patriots and 55-48 back on Feb. 5 inside the
Dyer Dome. The Horns had the lead in that game before being overtaken down the stretch.
“We’ve had the lead in the fourth quarter in several of our games,” added Tolley. We would play not to lose, but tonight we kept playing to win.”
East head coach Allen Aubrey was quick to compliment Tolley and his team for their outstanding play.
“You have to give Johnson County all the credit. Leon does just a fabulous job with them. They deserved to win. They played better than us.”
Tolley felt like the girls rallied behind Parsons who will miss the remainder
of the season. They did it with a well-balanced scoring attack.
Cox led the way with 21 points and five rebounds. Miller added 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while Winters contributed 10 points and four assists with Stout logging eight points in limited minutes due to the flu. Cornett gathered six points and three steals.
“I wasn’t about to miss the game,” said Stout. “We hadn’t won a tournament game in 24 years, so I wanted to be a part of ending that. I’m glad our team was able to make history. I’m happy for our coaches and fans.”
Freshman Hayley Grubb fired in 20 points for the ‘Pats while her classmate Riley Nelson provided 10 points and eight rebounds. Mattie Gouge had nine points on three treys. Emma Aubrey and Wolfe collected eight points apiece.
Miller said the team would be ready for Unicoi County on Thursday.
“Our team knows what it takes to win a big tournament game,” said Miller. “We beat Unicoi County over there, and they got us at our place. We definitely want to make the regional tournament. That would be a great thing of our basketball team.”

District 1-AA tournament
Johnson County 64,
Sullivan East 60

JOHNSON COUNTY (64)
Cox 21, Miller 14, Winters 10, Stout 6, Cornett 6,
Kleine 2, Icenhour 3, Eshelman 0.

SULLIVAN EAST (60)
Grubb 20, Nelson 10, Gouge 9, Aubrey 8,
Wolfe 8, Honaker 5

JCHS 11 9 25 19 -64
Sullivan E. 12 10 17 21 -60
3-point goals—JC 5 (Stout 2, Cox 2, Winters 1) East 7 (Gouge 3, Wolfe 2, Aubrey 2)

Late surge leads South past Lady Horns

The Lady Longhorns starters prepare for the opening tip versus South. The Horns led in the third quarter but ended up falling 51-40. Photos by Tim Chambers

By Tim Chambers

KINGSPORT—Johnson County’s lack of offense once again was the primary factor in them falling to Sullivan South in their final regular season game. The second place Lady Rebels overcame a 24-22 third-quarter deficit to win going away 52-37 on senior night inside the Rebels Den.
It was a game between two teams going in different directions.
South won their sixth consecutive game to secure the second seed while the Lady Horns fell to 3-9 in league play after starting the season 2-0. They’ll enter the District tournament as the sixth seed.
Lady Longhorns’ head coach Leon Tolley agreed that it was frustrating to watch his team play so hard only to have a brief stretch where things fell apart. Four of their losses in league play came after leading in the third quarter.
“We’re up with the ball by two with 12 seconds to go before halftime and then turn it over twice and give up four points,” said Tolley. “Then our girls decide they want to start switching what we were doing on defense, but unfortunately they switched on the other team’s best shooter and left her open. Sadly this is a pattern that we have. We play our guts out, and then a two or three-minute stretch puts us behind the eight ball. We just can’t score enough points once we get behind. We’ve got to do a better job of valuing the basketball and knowing, who the other team’s best shooter is. The first minute of the fourth quarter did us in against Sullivan East, and a two-minute stretch did us in tonight.”
Tolley’s reference was right on the money.
An ill-advised pass in the closing seconds led to four quick points by South when his team should have had the halftime lead. Their second mistake was leaving Alex Harris wide open on three occasions, and each time she buried a three-ball. She added another one in the fourth quarter and was 5-of-7 from long range. All of her 15 points came from behind the three-point line.
“Harris kept us going,” said South’s Coach Terry Hutson. “She’s our shooter, and we’re pretty good when we can make shots. Johnson County’s is a scary team that plays hard. Their matchup zone is hard to figure out.”

Lady Horns get off to
a slow start
South used a three-point play by Carissa Comsa to open the game then led 8-2 in the early going. The Longhorns battled back with Taylor Cox swishing a three-ball and Emmy Miller scoring in the paint.
They trailed 10-8 going into the second quarter.
The second period was much better for the Horns up until the final seconds that Tolley touched on. Emmy Miller tied the game at ten all on a jumper then Cox would later put them in front 22-20 on her second three-ball of the quarter.
That’s when South regained the momentum by stealing a pair of baskets off of turnovers to end the half on top by two.
Longhorns’ lead would soon disappear
Johnson County would battle back in the third quarter to take the lead on two separate occasions. Rhiannon Icenhour put them up 20-18 with a strong move in the paint while Cox made it 24-22 with a nice runner off the left side with 3:09 remaining in the frame.
That’s when Harris found a way to get open and drain three straight treys to put South in front to stay 31-24.
Johnson County used a pair of trifecta’s from Natalie Winters and Cox to get within three at 33-30, but they couldn’t defend the three-ball.
The dagger came when Mollie Leslie’s sank their fourth one of the quarter to put the Lady Rebels up 36-30. That woke up Leslie who was honored before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point.
She tacked on eight of her 15 total in the fourth quarter that prevented any chance of a Johnson County comeback.
Harris and Leslie scored 15 points apiece while Cosma added seven.
Cox matched their output with 15 points, and Miller added six points, and eight rebounds but the Horns got only eight total points from their remaining starters. Icenhour contributed five points and five rebounds off the bench. Winters dished out four assists to lead the Horns in that department.
The Longhorns played their third consecutive game without their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Taylor Parsons. She will likely return in time for Wednesday’s tournament game.
The Horns finished the regular season at 13-14 overall. South stands at 18-10 and 8-4 in league play.
JCHS 8 12 10 7 -37
Sulllivan S. 10 12 14 16 -43