Lady Warriors beat Lady Longhorns by eight points
By Jonathan PleasantWith the Lady Warriors becoming increasingly familiar with Johnson County’s style and techniques, head Coach Todd Whittemore made some big changes at Tuesday night’s game in Happy Valley. Leaving much of the team’s staple players on the bench, the coach pushed several of the younger members of the team into the mix and switched up many of the usual positions in an effort to confuse and disorient their opponents.
Despite a slow and hectic start, the decision almost worked, allowing the Lady Longhorns to eventually surpass Happy Valley in the third quarter and secure a six-point lead. However, with a full quarter left in play the Warriors were able to get back in gear and turn things around in the last minute to come up with a devastating eight-point win at 46-54.
One of the players who got the opportunity to shine early on was Kourtney Tolley. Playing several different positions throughout the night, including point guard, Tolley was able to earn her team seven points overall, an impressive feat for a ninth grade player in a varsity level game. “I was kind of nervous and a little scared at first but once I got out there it was okay,” Tolley said following the game. “There was some trouble earlier and Coach decided to mix things up. I felt I did okay, but then towards the end I messed up a play and got put out. The second half I sort of fell apart and I could have done better, but this is still my highest scoring varsity game.”
With both Sarah Swift and Brooke Brown on the bench, scoring in the first half fell mostly to Brionna Reece with critical help from players like Tolley and Mary Taylor. Things started off slow for the Lady Longhorns and Happy Valley jumped to an early lead. With senior Shalee Perry leading the way for the Lady Warriors, there were several strong three-point shots that found their way to the goal. As a result, Johnson County was facing a 9-19 deficit by the end of the first quarter.
Thankfully the Lady Longhorns started to work out some of the bugs in their new plan of action and by the middle of the second quarter, a couple of back-to-back buckets from Kourtney Tolley had cut the lead to seven. A trip to the foul line for Brionna Reece only helped the situation, and with nearly five minutes left before the half, Happy Valley began holding the ball.
Refusing to engage their opponent, the Longhorns waited patiently for Happy Valley to come to them, leaving a strange turn of events where both teams stood motionless as the clock steadily ticked away. After more than four minutes with no real action, Happy Valley finally took the initiative and tried to drive into the goal. By that time Sarah Swift had been put back into the game and with Happy Valley failing to gain any points from their tactic Swift was able to regain the ball in the last second before the buzzer.
Adding Brown back onto the court only boosted the Lady Longhorns morale, and by middle of the third quarter Johnson County was closing in on the lead. According to Tolley, “Brooke and Sarah are our main players and we needed them. We got down and the coach realized we had to have them. It felt pretty good when we finally pulled it out and were ahead, but then Brandy Dugger began fouling and we really needed her the last couple of minutes. That was the main thing, Brandy staying out of foul trouble.”
Back to their full line up and with sophomore Mary Taylor helping on free throws, the Lady Longhorns were able to slowly catch up and overtake the Lady Warriors late in the third quarter. Fouls on both sides began to accumulate, with four of Happy Valley’s starters nearly fouling out. Unfortunately as Tolley pointed out, Johnson County’s Brandy Dugger ran into foul trouble of her own, eventually forcing her out of the game midway through the fourth quarter. Ironically it was Dugger that ultimately tied up the game with a couple of accurate free throws. Followed by a bucket from Brionna Reece and a couple of foul shots from Taylor, Johnson County finally swept past Happy Valley, 32-26.
The lead was short lived, however, as a handful of critical mistakes late in the fourth quarter put Johnson County behind once again. “I thought we did really well,” said Mary Taylor. “We were staying right with them but then at the end we had some bad turnovers that really hurt us and we didn’t hit some of our foul shots. We started to get some fouls and it just fell apart.”
The last quarter quickly went from a 34-31 lead to a 38-40 lag as the Lady Warriors finally got back in the driver’s seat. Even then Johnson County was able to answer bucket-for-bucket over the next six minutes of game play, but as the clock began to wind down Happy Valley began holding the ball.
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