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Girls lose to Hanker, South Greene in opening tourney

It was a night of highs and lows as the as the Lady Longhorn basketball team made their official debut this season at the annual Johnson County Hall of Champions Tournament. In their first game against the Honaker Lady Tigers. fans could not have asked for a stronger performance. From tip off all the way through the last quarter Johnson County led on the boards and never backed off, often maintaining more than ten points ahead of their opponent. Yet, when the same group of girls came out against the South Greene Lady Rebels later in the evening it was the exact opposite case.

“That first game was awesome, that’s us,” said Head Coach Todd Whittemore. “That’s who we have to become. The way we played, the way we hustled, everything about it was awesome. I loved it. I think lack of depth was one of the main problems of the second game. We had a little adversity, and this group hasn’t been together long enough to go through adversity and come out smiling.”

One of the biggest obvious differences in the outcomes was in how Johnson County played their defense. In the first game, the Lady Longhorns claimed rebound after rebound, fighting under the net and effectively controlling the court. Sophomore Amanda Potter was particularly talented at laying hands on the ball and getting it out from the goal. In fact, Potter went on to have well over a dozen rebounds to her credit and was a key part of the victory.

During the second game against South Greene, a knee injury from last year made itself known and the Lady Rebels quickly took advantage. “Potter got exposed in the second game,” said Whittemore. “In the second game they used their quickness and the high low, and just because you’re big you’ve still got to be a player. She’s not there yet. She’s doing well, but she’s got another step to take. When you play against smart, little girls like that they are going to expose you if you can’t see both ball and man. She had to struggle a little bit but I still like what she brings to this team. She works hard, she’s a team player.”

Regardless of the second game, spirits were still very high against Honaker. In the first quarter a combination of Kourtney Tolley and Brooke Brown made steam roll over the Lady Tigers on the offense while Potter did more than her part on the defense. In the first three minutes Johnson County had already put up eight points while Honaker had only made two. The Lady Tigers eventually started to make some progress but by then the Lady Longhorns were already well into the double digits, closing out and coming into the second leading 19-10.

Potter continued to make progress at the net, even landing several offensive rebounds from missed shots. Honaker was able to keep a steady stream of shots of their own, but with Johnson County so far ahead, there was little they could do to close the gap. By halftime the score was 26-17 and with help from senior Brionna Reece, who led in scoring with 15 points, the Lady Longhorns finished up with a huge 51-35 victory.

The second game against South Greene actually started off well, with an early lead 6-4 after baskets by both Brown and Tolley and a rebound from Potter. In the last couple of minutes of the first quarter the Lady Rebels seemed to be able to work out Johnson County’s strategy, and along with two trips to the foul line jumped ahead 18-10. Making matters worse, Potter was forced to the floor on her injured knee and was obviously in pain for the rest of the game, despite her efforts to keep playing.

Stress levels started to rise toward the half leading Coach Whittemore to rethink his approach to the game coming into the third. “We had some adversity in that first half,” Whittemore said. “We were pointing fingers, me included, and that’s not how we are going to be able to do well with this team. We all talked at half time about coming together and just do whatever you can for the team and not get so mad at yourself or somebody else that you stop playing. We did that. We didn’t rebound as well, but also it was like we couldn’t buy a bucket in the second half. Shots that would normally didn’t go in, but we still played and I felt like we stuck together in the second half. That’s important because I felt like we were getting towards the end of the first half like we weren’t sticking together. It was getting a little dicey. I’m glad that we were able to come out at half time and play like a team, like a family.”

The damage was already done and with Johnson County starting the third quarter behind 26-40, hope of a turn around was scant at best. Even so, the team did come together to make a strong effort, with players like Gianna Lay and Mary Taylor getting shots in that kept the lead from growing any worse. With the writing on the wall, Whittemore finally decided to give some of the players from the bench a chance to play late in the fourth.
Although their match up against South Greene tempered the celebration from the night’s earlier victory, Coach Whittemore still took an optimistic overall view of his team’s performance. “We’ve got a lot of potential but we do have a long way to go,” Whittemore said. “We’ve got two days of practice with Michala in there, and that gives us another ball handler and that’s going to help us. I liked what Mary and Kourtney brought to the table. I saw some things we liked, especially in the earlier game, and saw some things we want to build on. The negatives today are fixable, so I’m ok with it. Overall we took another step forward. It’s a journey and we’re just going to try to be persistent. You’ve just got to keep fighting, hanging with it, and sticking together. If you work hard and keep a positive attitude good things will happen.”

Final Scores:
Johnson County 51,
Honaker 35
Brionna Reece 15
Kourtney Tolley 13
Brooke Brown 8
Amanda Potter 6
Mary Taylor 4
Gianna Lay 3
Michala Cretsinger 2

Johnson County 39,
South Greene 64
Brooke Brown 11
Brionna Reece 11
Mary Taylor 4
Amanda Potter 4
Kourtney Tolley 4
Maddie South 3
Gianna Lay 2