The Johnson County Lady Longhorns finally got the break they had long been looking for in their first round at the third Annual Johnson City Honda Trail Blazer Invitational at Daniel Boone High School. Playing against a selection of some of the best talent in the region, the Lady Longhorns were given the opportunity to try out some of their best plays against teams who had never experienced them in action. This was the case when they came out against the Greenback Lady Cherokees, from just south of Maryville.
Unlike many of the brutal slugfests they have had earlier in the season, Johnson County exploded on to the court, dominating the first quarter and maintaining a strong lead for the rest of the game. We had some great passes, said head coach Todd Whittemore. That first quarter, if we could put that in a bottle and bring it out again it would be awesome. Im going to watch the film again, but the first quarter I thought we passed the ball well. Im really proud of the girls. We really needed this and its a great Christmas present. We needed this bad. Weve lost so many close ones.
The star of the evening had to be Sarah Swift, who with 30 points overall almost made as many points by herself as Greenback did in the whole game. Swift was the first one on the scoreboard in the first quarter and contributed greatly in the remaining three, especially during an intense burst of success in the fourth quarter where she landed five consecutive buckets. We really needed somebody to put the team on their back and step up, said Coach Whittemore. With so many close ones lately I though Sarah Swift did an awesome job. She had 30 and did everything we asked of her. Later when she caught it and did a nice little step through, thats the kind of stuff we work on. Its nice to see them have success. Teams that dont know us have a tough time with that stuff. Happy Valley already knows it; they probably know it better than we do. Playing against teams that dont know us, weve got some good stuff.
Swift herself gave a lot of the credit to her teammate Brooke Brown, who fed her the ball throughout the night and made many of those successful lay ups possible. Its one of our best plays, said Swift. When it works on teams we try to keep running it and weve got great people to pass the ball. We talked about it before the game, that weve got to have great chemistry and play like we know how to play. Brooke and me are good friends and we have that chemistry anyway so it just all worked out. The coaches keep talking about when the game is tight somebody has to take control. I just really wanted to win this game and I was trying to do anything I could to ensure that we won.
Brown and Brionna Reece, the Lady Longhorns other two primary offensive players, also had strong games which helped Johnson County walk away with a 22-6 lead after the first period of the game. The Lady Cherokees made a little progress in the second, climbing to 15 while relying on three pointers to keep them in the game. At the same time, their speed allowed them to work around some of Johnson Countys offense, taking a 22-point run in the first quarter down to just six points in the second.
Greenback really turned up the heat in the third quarter, again holding the Lady Longhorns back while making substantial gains at the net. By the three-minute mark the lead had been cut to just six and even Coach Whittemore seemed a little worried that Johnson Countys third quarter curse would come back to haunt them. We tried to give it away in the third, Whittemore said. Their team does a really good job of penetrating and drawing two defenders, or getting by one and when you have to help it gets some open looks.
the Longhorns held on, keeping a 36-29 lead at the beginning of the fourth. From there Swift kicked into high gear and with her huge spree of baskets the Lady Cherokees saw the win slipping farther and farther away. A three-point bucket from Brown put the icing on the cake by pushing Johnson County into the low 50s, making this one of their highest scoring games of the year. In the end Greenback was able to make one more basket, but was still a far cry from victory at 52-31.
Speaking about the difference in this game, Coach Whittemore explained that winning is all about taking time and knowing what you do best as a team. For us right now its about us being in good spots, not picking your dribble up just past half court, not trying for a homerun pass, but just nice doubles and good singles. Take your time, methodically go about it instead of being in some big hurry to try and make some super play, said Whittemore.
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