Traveling to Church Hill to take on the Volunteer High School Lady Falcons, the Johnson County Lady Longhorns competed in an extremely tough game where they made their opponent earn every basket. Although they came up short in the end, Johnson Countys performance was impressive despite facing off against such a powerful team who had the age, height, and home court advantage. For head coach, Todd Whittemore, who for years held the same position with Volunteers mens basketball team, the game was both a homecoming and a chance to show how much the Lady Longhorns have improved over the last couple of years.
Overall Im proud of my girls and I think we can build off of this. Whittemore said. The girls were just focused tonight. I appreciate how hard they played. Im pleased with what I saw, especially the character that our girls showed, the toughness, the togetherness, and I dont think they quit. I thought we gave them a good game. It got away from us in the end, and I wasnt real happy with the foul situation in the second half. Of course I got a technical from walking out on the court, but I was trying to change the momentum. We fouled too much and that got us in a whole set of trouble, but again everything that went wrong tonight is fixable. On the flipside it was wonderful coming back to this gym, and I guess I had to get one technical for old times sake, because who knows how many Ive gotten in this gym over the years.
In the same mindset, many of the players like junior Brooke Brown also felt that this early game was a chance to prove how far they have come. According to Brown, We came back to Coach Whitts old stomping grounds and we wanted to show them that he has taught us something and to prove that he isnt just messing around with teaching us how to play. We had to give it our all. I was determined for us to keep it up. I thought we could turn it around all the way up through the fourth quarter, until the last couple of minutes when they started holding the ball and we couldnt get it. They were pretty rough and the refs werent calling anything for us so we were pretty much on our own.
The Lady Longhorns had a tough time from the very first quarter. Hours of practicing free throws began to pay off as Sarah Swift made her way to the foul line twice in the first minute of the game. This gave Johnson County a tenuous lead at 3-2, but was quickly surpassed by a couple of back-to-back buckets from Volunteer. Staying right with their opponent despite playing an intensely physical defense, Brooke Brown was next up to take a foul shot, landing two to bring the score back to 5-8. The Lady Longhorns were unable to hold the Falcons through their next few plays, but a final three pointer from Brown rounded out the quarter 8-15.
The second period started off very badly for Johnson County who struggled momentary to keep up. The point deficit jumped up to 13 before Johnson County began to bounce back, but catching a second wind the Lady Horns went on an impressive run with numerous free throws from Sarah Swift, Brooke Brown, and Brionna Reece. Capped off with a bucket by Kristin Roark and another long-range shot by Brown and the Longhorns were looking at closing the gap completely 21-25, with two minutes to go. The Lady Falcons were able to get back on track defensively, but the first half still closed with just five points difference at 22-27.
With it becoming clear that Johnson County would not back down, Volunteer really poured on the effort in the second half. According to Coach Whitt, This was not easy for us. I was really proud of our effort and our attitude. We got down in the first quarter and then battled back in the second. To come to this school with this crowd tonight in this big lit up gym, I was concerned how our girls were going to handle it. I thought that especially after things were not going our way early. We battled back and that was something I was looking for tonight. I told the girls, its easy to talk about what youre going to do when things are going your way. What I wanted to know was how are we going to react when things arent going our way. Are we going to stick together, are we going to start communicating more, or are we going to shut down. I dont think we shut down tonight.
Johnson County got back into trouble through the third quarter, but this time the foul shots worked against them. Bringing their opponents to the line a half dozen times, the Lady Longhorns scrambled to make up on the offense. Brionna Reece was able to make a couple of buckets off the rebound and with a final couple of free throws, finished up the 3rd down by 9 at 30-39.
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