GREENEVILLE — Johnson County was looking for another first round shocker. It wouldn’t come on South Greene’s watch.
The Rebels dominated the glass in the second half, played four quarters of up-tempo ball and used an early surge from the three-point line to pull away with a 65-37 victory over the Longhorns in their Region 1-AA quarterfinal tilt.
Johnson County led three times in the first quarter, but Daniel Tweed struck from the three-point line and the Rebels built a six-point lead by the half.
South Greene’s defense was too much on the Longhorns, holding Johnson County to 10 points while scoring 32 of their own in the frame.
“The second half, their defense got a lot better and we were a little tired,” said Johnson County coach Austin Atwood. “The first half we played pretty good offense and we couldn’t defend. They came out a little bit tight and we just couldn’t get a stop.
“Things we really talked about for three or four days we didn’t get done on the defensive end and that’s what made a difference in the game. We were scoring and executing and getting buckets. We just couldn’t get no darn stops. I felt like if we could’ve got 8 or 10 points up they would’ve got a little tighter and would’ve had more trouble scoring.”
The first quarter featured a series of lead changes and a pair of big turnovers by the Longhorns.
Johnson County fought to the lead twice early in the game, but each time it was answered by a three-point bucket from the Rebels’ Tweed.
Chase Phillips put the Longhorns in front a third time, but Charlie Baker drained a trey to swing the advantage to South Greene. Turnovers on the following two Johnson County possessions led to a third trey from Tweed and a deuce from Baker to make it a six-point game.
The Rebels led by five at the end of one.
Johnson County fought back within two with free throws from Chase Kleine, but the Rebels were more aggressive on both the offensive and defensive ends, using turnovers and rebounds to push their lead to eight.
Dusty Stout added a late steal and lay-up to make it a six-point game at the break for the Longhorns, but momentum was clearly on the side of the home team.
Missed opportunities on the Longhorns’ offensive end allowed South Greene to push its lead into double figures with an 11-4 stanza.
Tweed tickled the twine from downtown for the fourth time, while four other Rebels connected with deuces to make it a 13-point game going into the final eight minutes.
South Greene’s lead was insurmountable for the Longhorns due to the visitors’ struggles with possession of the basketball on top of the Rebels’ dominance on the boards.
Second-chance opportunities allowed Nick Davis and Baker to make it a 20-point game midway through the quarter and the home team never looked back.
“We didn’t play very well starting off with,” said South Greene coach Terry Hoese, whose team will meet Sullivan East in the semifinals. “I don’t know if it was coming off a big game the other night or what the deal was, we were dead at the start of the first half, didn’t play very good defense and couldn’t make a shot except for Daniel Tweed. Daniel kind of got us going. The second half, at halftime I challenged the crap out of them. I’m very proud of them defensively.”
Tweed led the Rebels with 12 points, while Davis and Baker scored 11 points each. Bryan Dempsey was the only Longhorn in double figures with 10 points.
A key to the second half runaway was the battle on the boards. For the game, South Greene out-rebounded Johnson County 34-16 led by 10-rebound games from both Ethan Wykle and Kolin Donahue.
“We knew it was going to be like a fist fight on the boards,” said Atwood. “We did okay early, but as the game went on, they did a better job. They’re a senior loaded team and we’re young. They’re just physically a lot stronger than we were.”
All-in-all, the season ended well for the Longhorns after an up-and-down regular season. Atwood said the team can learn from their finish and carry it into next year.
“If you look back, this is our seventh or eighth straight regional,” said Atwood. “We usually do finish strong, but I told our guys we’ve got to do a better job early in the season to make sure we get that home game.”