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Girls gain valuable experience in Anderson County tourney

The Lady Longhorns recently took part in an exciting three game tournament in Anderson County, near Knoxville, Tennessee. While the competition was tough and Johnson County’s success was hit and miss on the court, the trip was still a good opportunity for the team to come together and improve their skills under fire. However, the end results on the scoreboard were mixed to say to say the least. In their first game of the tournament against Oneida, the Lady Longhorns faced a horrible defeat. Things improved somewhat the next day against Cumberland Gap, having led part of the game and coming up just seven points shy of the win, and finally on the last day of the tournament the Lady Longhorns tasted victory over the Oak Dale Lady Eagles.
“It was frustrating but let’s look at the positives,” said Coach Todd Whittemore. “The trip was good because we were able to bond. None of the parents went on the trip other than our driver, and it was good for these girls to get away and have to depend on one another. The players had to stick together because it was just us down in Knoxville. We may not have gotten as much out of it playing wise like I would have liked, but big picture wise, when we break it down and say family on two, I felt like we really came together as a family. We learned more about each other not just on the basketball court, but as people. That’s good because you can use that to help the basketball side of things. That was a neat thing. We went to the movies together, did a little shopping, it was just a good trip.”
Playing at three separate schools across Anderson County, the girls’ first game against Oneida was simply a blowout. Even with senior players like Brooke Brown and Brionna Reece giving their best efforts and reaching into the double digits on their own, it was not enough to overcome the sheer depth of the much bigger school. Nine players in all managed to put up baskets for Oneida, with about half of those gaining 10 or more. Johnson County did their best on defense, but with so many on the roster that could shoot the ball, guarding was difficult to say the least. By the end of the first night Johnson County was facing a 61-40 loss, but there were high hopes for a come back against Cumberland Gap the next day.

Things started off on the wrong foot for the Lady Longhorns, falling behind 8-20 by the end of the first quarter. The lead eventually climbed as high as 15 in the second, but as Coach Whittemore pointed out, there was still a lot of fight left in the game. “We should have beat Cumberland Gap,” Whittemore said.  “We were down 15 to start off. We went up four nothing and then didn’t score for six minutes. By the time we got to half time we had 12 team fouls. They attempted 45 free throws and made 20. We cut it to five at the end of the third and we got it down to one in the fourth, but every time we’d get close we’d do something foolish. When you send someone to the line 45 times you can’t say it’s all the officials, you just can’t.”
With just one point between them and less than two minutes on the clock, it looked as though Johnson County might finally make it out of the deep hole they dug at the beginning of the game. In one swift turn of events a missed rebound bounced out to one of Cumberland’s girls, who then got fouled yet again by Johnson County to gain a plus one layup that pushed the lead back to four. Another couple of fouls later, and the Lady Longhorns were looking at their second loss 55-48.
The one bright spot that brought the team out of the disappointment of that troubling defeat was a stellar performance by Brooke Brown, who not only put up 25 points but earned a distinction that few high school players can claim, landing her 1000th career point midway through the game.
In honor of such a prestigious accomplishment, Coach Whittemore asked Norris High School’s assistant principal whether or not it would be possible to acquire the actual game ball and found a story surprisingly fitting for a tournament so close to Knoxville. “He told me that that ball came from a UT Lady Vols practice,” said Whittemore. “They sat in on a practice last year and UT’s coach gave the school that ball, Norris had used it for the game ball every game this year, but he says to me, ‘here you can have this. This is a memorable moment and you couldn’t get a better ball.’ I asked him to present it to her. I went to Brooke, brought her in there and told her that we got the actual game ball. You should have seen her because she is a huge Lady Vols fan.”
The 1000-point accomplishment was an historical one for Whittemore as well. Having coached for nearly 20 years, nine other players have earned this distinction, with Brown making the 10th, as well as the first for a girl’s team under Whittemore’s tenure. “I would love to ultimately win the championship and we’re working towards that,” Whittemore explained, “but while we’re waiting for that to happen it was still kind of cool to be able to say that I was lucky enough not only to coach those boys but also these girls. It wasn’t something I was seeking to do but after the fact, I’m pretty darn lucky because I can’t imagine there are many coaches that have been able to do both. That was a nice individual milestone.

The celebration didn’t last long as it was back to business the next day against Oak Dale. This time it was sophomore Kelsey Duperry the made the big waves, earning 12 points and putting up a defensive effort that outshone everyone in the gym. In fact, if it had not been for the combined efforts of Duperry and Brown, the Lady Longhorns would likely have ended up with third loss.
“Duperry is one of my favorite players right now,” said Whittemore. “She’s a great athlete, she works so hard, and she doesn’t know how not to go hard. She’s thriving right now, because she’s having success, and why is she having success? Because she is usually playing harder than the person she is going against. I’m so proud for her because she hasn’t had it easy. It’s good to see a kid like that have something good happen for her.”
Yet even pulling out ahead 43-39, the noticeable lack of effort from some of the other members of the team left Johnson County’s coaching staff obviously frustrated. “Saturday morning was the worst feeling after a win that I’ve ever had in my life,” Whittemore admitted. “Our girls just didn’t play very hard and it was multiple girls. Here’s who played hard, Brooke Brown and Kelsey Duperry. That’s obvious because Brooke had 27 points, Duperry had 12 points, and the rest of the team combined for four points. Mary had one, Reece had one, and Kourtney had two. Nobody else scored. I’m sorry but we can’t swap in very deep. We won the game but it was only because of Brooke and Duperry. I’ve never coached a game like that one before.”
Yet, even with the somewhat disappointing results, the tournament was still a good way to keep the Lady Longhorns on the court, learning their own limitations, and pointing out where they need the most improvement. “I felt like we bounced back but there’s just no excuse for not showing up,” Whittemore concluded. “We’re five and nine overall, and I don’t know where this leaves us. We learned that under any circumstances Brooke and Duperry are going to play hard and we learned that we’re not very good if we don’t try hard as a team.”

Johnson County 40
Oneida 61
Brooke Brown 18
Brionna Reece 9
Kourtney Tolley 5
Mary Taylor 4
Kelsey Duperry 4
Johnson County 48
Cumberland Gap 55
Brooke Brown 25
Kourtney Tolley 8
Brionna Reece 6
Michala Cretsinger 4
Kelsey Duperry 3
Amanda Potter 2

Johnson County 43
Oak Dale 39
Brooke Brown 27
Kelsey Duperry 12
Mary Taylor 2
Gianna Lay 1
Brionna Reece 1