After a short dry spell of tough losses, the Lady Longhorns were back on top of things Tuesday night, pulling out their first conference win in a big way against the Sullivan North Lady Raiders. From the very first possession on, Johnson County seized control and pressed their advantage. Seniors Brooke Brown and Brionna Reece got things started, first with a three pointer and then a couple layups that quickly pushed the Lady Longhorns ahead 8-0.
North finally got on the board midway through the period with a three pointer of their own, but that small advance was negated by yet another long range shot from Brown who had a surprisingly good night that ultimately saw 27 points to her credit. Yet, even with this huge accomplishment it wasnt just Brooke Browns show as even younger players like sophomore Kourtney Tolley got their turn to shine. Besides landing at least one bucket every quarter of the game, Tolley also had one stunning shot from center court just before the first half that ultimately pushed Johnson County into the low 40s.
This was big, Tolley said about the win. It helps us to get our confidence back after we played East and Hampton and it didnt go our way. I think we can build off of it Friday. Hopefully we can beat Happy Valley, especially since its where Coach Chambers came from. Weve spent time in the gym working hard. We worked very hard this week, doing a lot of conditioning with Coach Chambers and working to get in shape.
That extra effort apparently paid off as the team succeeded not only on the offense but on the defense as well. Working in several steals and solid efforts for the rebound, players like sophomore Amanda Potter helped keep the Lady Raiders from making a serious presence on the scoreboard. For the entire first half North scored just seven points, picking up only two in the whole second quarter and both of those on foul shots.
Potter, who had been doing very well picking up the rebound, was forced out of the game during the third quarter following an injury to her knee. Johnson County was already well ahead at 47-7, and even though Potters presence on the court was missed it also opened up other opportunities. Stepping in to fill the gap, sophomore Kelsey Duperry made a surprisingly good showing, a fact that Coach Todd Whittemore quickly expounded upon.
Potter was injured, the door was cracked open for somebody and Duperry kicked it in, Whittemore said. Weve been talking about wanting her to step up and help us on varsity. She has all that energy. We saw it in the JV game. She got her moment, her chance tonight and she let everybody know she could help us. I was very happy for her because she hasnt had it easy as of late. It was good for her and good for our team, because I think she makes us better. I really like what she brings to the table.
Duperry went on to make a decisive showing on the defense and at the same time displayed quite a bit of versatility offensively as well, picking up a couple of baskets and several free throws as she was fouled under the net. Yet Duperry wasnt the only player from off the bench to make an impact. Both Dawn Lewis and Michala Cretsinger made scoring runs, putting up five points each and showing a strong ability for ball handling and making quick decisions. Lewis in particular had a big shot late in the fourth that put fans on their feet and Johnson County well into the 70s on the scoreboard.
To their credit, the Lady Raiders remained determined even when things were at their worst. Using every advantage they could, North finally broke into the double digits midway through the third and broke 20 by the beginning of the fourth. Had this drive come earlier it might have even made a serious difference in the momentum of the game, but with Johnson County so far out front the effort ultimately proved fruitless.
Younger players like Duperry and Cretsinger kept up a continuous string of shots throughout the fourth, finishing up with a huge 81-30 final score. Naturally very pleased with the win, Coach Whittemore seemed more concerned about the victorys impact on the teams morale coming into their next game on the road against Happy Valley. This win is good medicine, Whittemore said. We lost our first one. We were a little shaky, but then we won three in a row by 20 and we lost three in a row by 20. This is a big major league step. We needed to come together like a team, the family that we try to stress, and I feel like we did tonight. Im glad our fans got to see our girls doing what they can do. We needed some confidence. Its kind of like we had a bad feeling over us and we lifted that off of us, I think, and I hope were ready to go. Weve got two days to get ready for Happy Valley. Were going to enjoy this tonight, but then tomorrow its time to go back to work.