The Longhorns escaped, however, winning 46-44 Friday on a tip-in at the buzzer to secure a share of the Three Rivers Conference regular-season championship.
The teams played through a frantic final 15.7 seconds. The Rebels’ Chase Bowery stepped to the foul line and hit 1 of 2 attempts. The Longhorns then missed three shots at the other end before Michael Oxentine collected an offensive rebound, and the junior post’s putback beat the buzzer to win it for Johnson County.
View the photo gallery from the games
Oxentine closed the game with seven points in the regular-season finale for the Longhorns, ranked No. 10 in The Associated Press Class AA poll.
Johnson County (25-4, 11-1) won its 19th straight game. Its last setback came in November against Elizabethton, the co-champion in the Three Rivers. Johnson County has the top seed for the District 1-AA tournament after a draw.
“It’s going to be a special tournament,” Longhorns coach Austin Atwood said. “I’m glad we had a game like this to get our boys back in check. We’re going to get back to work and we’re going to get back into the gym to get settled back down to get to playing like we were two to three weeks ago.”
Mr. Basketball finalist Blake Atwood led everyone with 24 points. Gavin Reece added nine.
Junior guard Ben Diamond scored 17 points for South, getting 14 in the first half. Bowery scored 10 of his dozen points in the final quarter.
LADY REBELS CORRAL LONGHORNS
In the girls’ game, the Lady Rebels pulled away late for a 52-37 victory.
With Johnson County up 24-22, Alex Harris turned the game in South’s favor in the third. Harris hit three straight 3-pointers and the Lady Rebels didn’t trail again.
Harris finished with 15 points, as did Mollie Leslie. Leslie — who was honored for recently scoring her 1,000th career point — fired up 13 in the second half to help South outscore Johnson County 30-17 over the final two quarters.
Taylor Cox paced Johnson County with 15 points.
The District 1-AA tournament will take place at Happy Valley. The boys’ event has Johnson County already in the semifinal and playing next Saturday.
The girls’ tournament begins Wednesday with Johnson County against Sullivan East. The second-seeded Lady Rebels will take to the court next Saturday in a semifinal contest.