The curse of narrow defeats that has plagued the Lady Longhorns all season struck again last week in a very close fourth quarter comeback that simply did not have enough time to gain Johnson County the win over local rivals, the Hampton Lady Bulldogs. We played well the fourth quarter tonight, said head coach Todd Whittemore. The problem is that we didnt play well the other three.
The first period in particular was the worst for the Longhorns, trailing 6-13 by the buzzer. Four of those early points came from free throws by Brionna Reece, while the last bucket came from Sarah Swift with just six seconds left on the clock. While the offense didnt perform to the best of their ability, a broken finger for Brandy Dugger in the game against Cloudland the night before left Johnson County without one of their best defensive players.
Without Brandy tonight that puts a little pressure on us defensively, Whittemore said. She doesnt score all that much but she is our best defensive player. Our defense isnt bad, they only had one quarter where they scored 20. We outscored them in the second quarter 17 to 16 and even though we cut it to four it was actually 11 to 8 in the fourth. It was just the first quarter that killed us. We work on it. Some games we handle it fine others we dont. They didnt really get a lot over us; they just sat back there and let us do it to ourselves.
Although the damage was done, the second quarter went much better for Johnson County, beginning with a bucket from Brooke Brown as soon as the team took to the court. Yet, the momentum didnt really shift until Whittemore took a chance on cycling in some of the younger players, most notably Gianna Lay and Kourtney Tolley. Gianna came in, she got six points, she was three for five from the field, which is very good, said Whittemore. I think she makes a difference defensively. Shes a presence in there and she knows how to block a shot without coming all the way down.
At the same time, Kourtney Tolley, who actually transferred from Hampton this year as a freshman, continued to prove that she can have a big role on the team, especially for such a young player. When asked about how she felt going up against some of her former teammates Tolley actually saw it as a strong advantage.
I was really nervous to start out with, playing with some of my friends that Ive played with forever, Tolley said. I knew how they played and what I had to do to stop them but it just didnt work out. I played in middle school with most of them, which makes it easier because I know their weaknesses and I know their strengths and what I have to do. Im very competitive so I didnt really care about playing against them. That didnt bother me. I was just thinking we have to stop them and we have to stop Dorothy Dugger, their main player. We had to stop her from scoring and if we can stop their drives, get to the inside and stop the threes we would have had it. We just didnt get the stops enough. If we had just a minute more there at the end we would have had them.
By the half, Johnson County was able to get back on their feet and bring the lead back down to just six. Many of the shots made in the second quarter came from Brooke Brown, but Mary Taylor, Gianna Lay, and Brionna Reece all made contributions of their own as well. However, the gap climbed to 10 at the beginning of the third, and although the Lady Longhorns were able to keep up the pace from that point on there was little actual advancement. Mary Taylor was able to put up a basket and a couple of foul shots, while Sarah Swift went on a strong run late in the quarter putting up three baskets before the clock ran out.
Yet, the last quarter of the game was where the Lady Longhorns really shined. A true team effort, Brown, Reece, and Swift all made advancements within the first four minutes to bring the deficit back down to single digits, and cutting the score to 48-52. A very close three-pointer from Brown with just under three minutes on the clock could have been a big turn around, but the effort fell just short of the net. That momentary lapse was followed by a couple of costly fouls and missed lay-ups, which gave the Lady Bulldogs one last push to soundly take the win 48-57.
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