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Girls lose a close one to Sullivan East

The Johnson County Lady Longhorns continued to thrill their fans and shock their rivals as they met the Sullivan East Lady Patriots in a back and forth home game with no end to the action. Despite facing an opponent that many thought would dominate the court, the Lady Longhorns put on a phenomenal show of determination and effort that forced the Lady Patriots to earn every basket.
Although the Lady Longhorns came up three points shy of the win at 53-56, Johnson County’s continuously improving performance was not lost on Sullivan East Head Coach Allan Aubrey. “I give Johnson County all the credit. They’re just plain tough. They’re gonna keep winning games. Todd does a great job. We’re a really good rebounding team. We normally pound people under the glass, but we couldn’t keep them off the offensive. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Johnson County. They switched up the defense and kept us confused. I think they played a good game too. I don’t feel badly about this win at all.”
East is well known for making three-point shots and with 13 during the Junior Varsity game earlier in the evening, Johnson County’s coaches knew they would have to do something to mix it up. Isolating the Lady Patriots’ best shooter, Coach Todd Whittemore took the well placed advice of Assistant Coach Robbie McCulloch to devise a new strategy for the game.
According to Whittemore, “We knew that they were going to come out here and expect us to be in our two-three zone where they could just have a field day shooting threes on us. Robbie persuaded me to try a three-two or a box and one, but then we tilted it to a diamond.” With this type of layout Johnson County was able to keep senior Nikki Farrow guarding East’s shooter while placing the other four in a diamond position that allowed better coverage not only at the goal but on both sides of the court as well.
The scoreboard was up and down for the Lady Longhorns, with several big comebacks, including a short lead in the third quarter. The game started off slow, with only one two-point basket by Sarah Swift throughout the first half of the first period. Three more buckets in the last two minutes put the score up to eight, but Johnson County still trailed behind the Lady Patriots with 16. The second quarter ended much better with the Lady Longhorns working hard to make up the deficit, and ending at halftime down by only five with a score of 23-28.
The second half of the game was unpredictable, with two big Johnson County drives. Starting off the third strong, an early free throw by Brionna Reece followed by another pickup from Brooke Brown gave the Lady Longhorns the lead 34-33. Unfortunately it was short lived, as the Lady Patriots made one of their infamous threes, and Johnson County began to slip back again. By the end of the quarter a handful of turnovers and bad passes had put the girls back down by 10 at 36-46.
Bouncing back in the fourth quarter with a few well timed steals by Sarah Swift and Brandy Dugger, the Lady Longhorns were able to hold East at 48 while pushing their own score up. With four minutes left in the game, Reece made a bucket that evened up the board 48-48.
The last two minutes became the tensest in the game, as the clock began to work against the Lady Longhorns. With less than twenty seconds left the girls had fallen back by five, but a last second gain from Brooke Brown closed the game 53-56.
Yet, despite the narrow loss Coach Whittemore seemed very pleased with the way the Lady Longhorns presented themselves against such a tough opponent. “I’m very proud of the girls. We got down 10, 14 in the first half and came back. We got down 10 in the fourth quarter and tied it up. I think the fans are enjoying how hard these girls are playing. I felt the fans tonight. It was loud in there again, and I think that our fans are starting to say, ‘Hey those girls are giving us something to cheer for.’ ”

Final scores
Brionna Reece 18
Brooke Brown 17
Sarah Swift 12
Brandy Dugger 4
Mary Taylor 2