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JCHS girls compete in Beef O'Bradys Thanksgiving Classic

Despite showing off a new set of uniforms, it was still a dismal night for the Lady Longhorns at the 2011 Beef O’Brady’s Thanksgiving Classic, held at Happy Valley High School. Facing the older and more experienced Sullivan South Lady Rebels, the longhorns went home with a 61-16 loss. According to head coach Todd Whittemore, “This is a young team and the girls are new to me. I’ve got a lot to learn.” Comparing JCHS’s lineup with three sophomores to Sullivan South’s three seniors, the odds were against the Longhorns from the start, but Whittemore also attributed the 45-point difference to problems with the enthusiasm of his team. “I was very disappointed with the lack of effort. Problems with the defense had something to do with it but we weren’t able to make even the layups and free throws. “
JCHS started off a decent first quarter with scores from both Brooke Brown and Sarah Swift, ending only five points behind the lady Rebels. Yet a slipping performance went into full-fledged freefall as the JCHS girls went without a single successful shot the entire second quarter. Coupled with big gains by Sullivan South, the lack of drive lead to a bleak 34-6 halftime score. Throughout the game Coach Whittemore worked to motivate his team to get back into the game, using multiple time-outs to address serious problems with both defensive and offensive tactics.
This lead to some marginal success in the third quarter with another score by Brown and additional baskets from Brionna Reece and Chelsea McCulloch, but there was little that could be done against South’s climb on the scoreboard and by the end of the quarter Johnson County was down 13 to 50. Adding to the Lady Longhorn’s list of complications was a lack of successful foul shots. Johnson County was fouled eight times but was only three for eight in shots, compared to Sullivan South who was five for seven in fouls.
Yet, despite all that worked against them, the JCHS Lady Longhorns never seemed to lose spirit. Time and again the girls would work their way down the court in an effort to bounce back, and had many of the shots taken been successful, the scoreboard would have looked much different. Reflecting on the outcome of the game, Coach Whittemore stated, “I’m going to try to force these girls to learn from the mistakes of this game,” indicating that he was going to step up the girls’ practice and work to sharpen their current skills. But, with the season just warming up, there will plenty of opportunities for the Lady Longhorns to get some good experience.
A different kind of team was on the court for the second game of the Beef O’ Brady ‘s Thanksgiving Classic, as the JCHS Lady Longhorns took on the Sullivan Central Lady Cougars at Happy Valley High School. Only two nights earlier the girls from Johnson County were handed a sound defeat by Sullivan South, but were much better prepared and focused for their round with Central. The game became Central’s first win of the season as they pulled ahead in the last minutes of the game, ending with a 42-32 victory. Yet, despite ultimately coming up short, the Longhorns fought tooth and nail showing the fire and drive they are capable of.
Johnson County head coach Todd Whittemore was especially happy with the girls’ performance during the game. “I felt much better. I felt like we really competed. What I am most proud of is how we responded to just two nights ago losing by 45. I really didn’t know how they were going to respond. I was hoping they would try to pick it up tonight.”
Fortunately the Lady Longhorns did seem to take a positive lesson from their earlier loss and were able to remain ahead of the Lady Cougars for the entire first half of the game. Johnson County got off to a good start in the first quarter with several successful baskets by sophomores Brooke Brown and Brandy Dugger that ended with a strong 13-6 lead. Yet the stakes were high for both teams and the girls from Sullivan Central were able to keep up and get the score to a much closer 16-13 by half time, managing to finally pull ahead with 3 minutes 41 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.
At the start of the fourth the Lady Longhorns were down 29-22 but with a lot of work and some lucky foul shots were able to get within two points of taking back the lead. Right down to the last couple of minutes in the game it seemed that Johnson County might be able to pull off a victory, and used every available timeout in the effort.
Ultimately, two major factors influenced the final outcome of the game, the Longhorns’ inability to make several key baskets, and Central’s successes at making 3-point shots. With only seconds left on the clock the Lady Cougars pulled off several successful maneuvers that allowed them to get ahead by ten.
However, for Coach Whittemore this type of unpredictable game with the win up for grabs until the last moment is actually a good thing. “We just haven’t had a lot of experience being in close games late. Any game that we can be in late right now is a great opportunity. The good thing is tonight the turnovers we had either by the thrower or the receiver not coming to the ball, are fixable.“
With that in mind Whittemore went on to highlight that his team will be practicing heavily in preparation for the next game. “When they compete like that and they battle, we don’t have to win for me to be proud of them. They are a great bunch of girls. All they had to do was hustle. I think they hustled great tonight.”
Hopefully the Lady Longhorns will be able to take the hard earned experience from this game and continue to build momentum for the rest of the season.