Girls lose to Highlands
By Jonathan PleasantAfter a very solid first half, trouble in the third quarter cost the Lady Longhorns dearly against the Cloudland Lady Highlanders at home last Friday night. Having controlled the court throughout the first quarter and coming in just one point shy of the lead at half time, things were looking pretty good for Johnson County early on, but as Coach Todd Whittemore pointed out, a team has to be able to consistently endure the pressure to be able to pull out a win against a team like the Lady Highlanders.
“Unfortunately I’ve not done a good job in preparing us for pressure situations,” Whittemore said. “The third quarter we scored three points, they scored 15. We should have seniors that score 25 a night, but the girls are working hard. They’re great girls. Their chips are all in. They want to do what’s best for the team but obviously I’ve not spent enough time in practice working against pressure. If I had, we would have had a very different result tonight.”
Both teams were playing very aggressive through the first quarter of the game. Brionna Reece was the first to put Johnson County on the scoreboard after landing a basket right at the net, but Cloudland was quick to regain control with a basket plus one. Junior Gianna Lay was able to come in with an answering basket that helped take back the lead with gains from Senior Brooke Brown. Tied at 6-6, Reece reclaimed the lead with 27 seconds on the clock as she landed two well-placed free throws from the foul line.
The game didn’t go quite as smoothly during the second quarter with Cloudland taking the initiative on a very early three-pointer, but despite stalling at nine for several minutes, the Lady Longhorns battled back with a long range shot of their own and several more foul shots by Reece. Sophomore Kourtney Tolley was the last to make a basket to enter the half trailing 15-16.
Having done well up to this point, fans in the packed Johnson County High School gym were anticipating a hard battle down to the finish. A string of mistakes and turnovers, including several wild and dropped passes, proved to be the Lady Longhorns undoing.
According to Coach Whittemore, “When we press people we’re looking for three things: turnovers, the other team taking quick bad shots that we rebound, and making the other team pick the wrong people to hang on to it. We did all three of those tonight. We turned it over, we took bad quick shots, and we threw the ball to our five man multiple times versus the press. For whatever reason that’s just not how you get it done. The effort was there, the attitude was there, I know they got down on themselves, but they weren’t down on each other, and we talk about that. It’s easy to have a good attitude when things are going good, but how are you going to react when things are going bad. They’ve got to get past the moment. Great shooters are the ones who aren’t thinking about the 20 shots they’ve missed, they’re focused on the one they’re about to make. We need to get more of that attitude as it applies to turnovers.”
Within the first minute of the third, Cloudland was able to push their lead to five at 15-20. A basket from Brionna Reece cut it to three, but from there things only got worse. Johnson County stalled at 17 while the Lady Highlanders climbed to 26, but even then there was hope for a turn around. That possibility went down in flames as a single span of three separate turnovers resulting from simple mistakes bumped a nine-point deficit well into the double digits.
“I didn’t like the fact that they were on the floor more than us,” Whittemore said. “We’ve got to instill in these girls that when you pass the ball you’ve got to jump to the ball, you don’t wait for it. If you do all you’re doing is waiting on the defensive player to step in front of you and steal it. These are all fixable problems and yes we are a really good half court team right now, but we are not a good full court getting pressed all the time team.”
Coming into the fourth 18-31, Johnson County put up a good fight but the damage was already done. Junior Mary Taylor made a shot that pushed the Lady Longhorns to 20 and two back to back from seniors Brionna Reece and Brooke Brown jumped the score to 24, but by then Cloudland was already in the 40s. Johnson County continued to struggle on all the way down to the last second of the game, but in the end the setbacks of the third quarter proved too much to overcome.
“It would be different if it were Science Hill where its man to man and they’re trapping it,” a disappointed Whittemore said about the loss, “but Cloudland basically just stood there and let us throw it away. I don’t know why it happened tonight but I do know we have to work on it more in practice. I’ll take the blame for this one. I don’t think we were prepared. I’m the head coach and I need to make sure that we are prepared and ready and we weren’t ready tonight. That’s got to be my fault but I can tell you that we are going to work on it before we have to go to Hampton next Friday.”
Johnson County 25,
Brionna Reece 15
Brooke Brown 4
Mary Taylor 2
Kourtney Tolley 2
Gianna Lay 2