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Girls hone basketball skills

The Lady Longhorn basketball team got a unique opportunity to play against some tough competition last week as they made their way to Wise Virginia to take part in the 2013 Southwest Virginia Team Camp. Twenty-five teams participated in the event, with Johnson County and Daniel Boone being the only two from Tennessee. Yet, for head coach Todd Whittemore, coming up against unfamiliar opponents was one of the more positive parts of the weekend.
“It’s a good camp,” Whittemore said.  “I like who we’re playing because they are good teams. They’re not overly strong, but they’re also not teams that know us that well. It’s nice playing new competition. Right now it’s more about us than anything else. We lost our leader Sarah Swift, and that not going to be easy to replace. I’ve been coaching 20 years and I’d like to say that I can develop a new leader every year but I can’t. Leaders have just got it in them. You can’t force it on them. You can’t make them into a leader if they don’t have it in them. Between Brooke Brown, Brionna Reece and Brandy Dugger we have three that have been starting for four years. They have to step up and be vocal leaders. They don’t want to make anyone mad at them, but a true leader doesn’t care if someone gets mad at them. They’re going to say what needs to be said and they’re going to do what needs to be done. I’m just hoping were going to get that out of them this year.”
Traveling to Wise on Friday, the team played three games and then spent the night to get up Saturday morning and play three more. Some of the competition, like Wise Central, was very tough, while others like Northwood were more familiar. Playing them the first game, Central went on to beat Johnson County by ten but only after the Lady Longhorns battled back from a 20-point deficit. The Northwood game came later, with better results, and Johnson County was able to turn things around by taking an early lead and holding on through all four quarters. Games were shortened to 10 minutes per quarter with the clock continuously running.
Other games, including a narrow defeat by Clintwood, might have gone the other direction but from the beginning the Longhorns faced several challenges. Senior Brionna Reece was out sick, although she did support her team from the bench, and Junior Mary Taylor had several issues with a knee that she injured at practice earlier in the week. Making things worse Taylor fell on that same knee in the first round and almost had to leave the game.
Despite these issues, Whittemore was still proud of his team’s performance, noting especially some of the new faces in the lineup. “It gives you an idea of what to expect next year,” Whittemore said. “Gianna Lay is doing a much better job at the five. She’s got a nice jump going. Michaela Cretsinger is here with us. She is a little freshman, a little fireplug, and I like her a lot. When I have enough time to teach her the plays I’m going to be able to run her some at the point and put Brooke to scoring. Not all our sets are scoring from the point guard spot. We’d like to get Brooke scoring more and if we can run Mary and Michaela. She’s tough; she can handle the ball. It’s hard to make a point guard. We want Brooke to score 25 a game. If we want to be competitive we need Brooke to score 20-25 a game, and she can if she’s not always having to handle the ball and get us into our sets.”

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