Following a couple of rough setbacks the Lady Longhorns were back home in Mountain City Tuesday night, as they took on the Happy Valley Lady Warriors for the second time this season. Remembering a painful loss their first time around, the Johnson County girls were ready and willing to prove that they had what it takes to come out on top against the Lady Warriors. In a phenomenally close game that wound up going into an equally close overtime period, the Lady Longhorns pulled ahead thanks to two essential steals by starter Brionna Reece, sending Happy Valley home disappointed 53-51.
Acknowledging the Lady Longhorns improvement, Happy Valley Coach Erica Beach commented, We didnt come ready to play, thats the difference in this game. Johnson County was mentally prepared for their game. I know we had some bright spots but Johnson County deserves the credit for the win they got tonight. In games like this where its close, those are times where you cant spare to score a basket.
The Lady Longhorns played an excellent first half, jumping ahead by five in the first two minutes thanks to an early bucket by Brandy Dugger, followed by three free throws from Brionna Reece. Brooke Brown finished out the first quarter with two buckets of her own to bring Johnson County to nine. Happy Valley had considerable trouble facing off against the Lady Longhorns defense and was met with a good deal of foul trouble in their efforts to break through. This was due in part to the use of a diamond and one configuration that Coach Todd Whittemore and assistant Robbie McCulloch have been using with a lot of success in earlier games.
Understandably, Whittemore seemed very excited with the win. We know that other fans are saying were a long way from being good, and even our dedicated fans are saying we are a next year team. But I tell the girls we are a now team. We can prove our fans wrong and they would love us to. We can prove that we are a now team and not a next year team. We want it to be that nobody really feels like playing us come tournament time.
The success of the first quarter rolled into the second as early shots by Brown and Reece pushed the score into the teens. Happy Valley began to get its act together late in the period, going into a drive that gave them 14 points of their own, but by that time the Lady Longhorns were approaching 20 on the board. The Lady Longhorns have had trouble playing consistently through all four quarters, and there was concern about keeping their momentum coming back from the half.
Yet, despite a fierce surge from Happy Valley, Johnson County managed to hold onto the lead for the majority of the third. The Lady Longhorns kept a five-point lead for most of the first half of the period, keeping the Lady Warriors in check with pickups from Sarah Swift and Brooke Brown. In the last two minutes Happy Valley began to get the upper hand, even briefly taking the lead, but Johnson Count quickly bounced back and managed to retain control of the quarter despite a last second basket from Happy Valley that put the score to 31-30.
The fourth quarter became a real struggle for the win, with the Lady Longhorns pulling ahead 37-32 in the first half of the period, but the Lady Warriors gradually built a momentum of their own and had managed to even up the score in the last minute. Despite the fact that Happy Valley was in possession of the ball in the last seconds of the game, Whittemore didnt seem too concerned. Weve got no problem going into overtime; that gave us momentum. We knew to let them hold it, let them melt the clock down and then have to rush into a shot. They thought we were going to come out of our zone.
Even with an extra four minutes of game time, it seemed as though there might not be a clear winner until the last second. The score tied three times in the first three minutes, at 43, 45, and 48. Yet, the defining moment of the game came following two very important and essential steals by Brionna Reece that sealed Johnson Countys win. According to Whittemore, Brionna is a real player. She didnt do too well in the fourth quarter, and most kids would have quit, would have gave up, but she stayed positive. We stayed positive with her, and really that sealed the win. I just like the way Reece made those two steals; that was the ball game.
Reece herself just seemed excited to have another win. This game means a lot considering its another conference win and last time we didnt do all that well against them. I knew we could beat them and thats what I was looking forward to tonight and we did.
Final Scores: Johnson County 53, Happy Valley 51
Brooke Brown 20
Sarah Swift 14
Brionna Reece 12
Brandy Dugger 7