In a second tough game for the week, the Johnson County Lady Longhorns went out against the Elizabethton Cyclones on their own turf and were dealt a strong blow. Struggling through a first half that was eerily similar to their earlier bout in Unicoi, the Johnson County girls finally began showing a spark of enthusiasm late in the game but were just too far behind to make up the difference.
For Coach Todd Whittemore, even a late sign of improvement seemed to be a big relief. After the game we had the other night its nice to at least see a sparkle of something good again. The effort was there. We didnt play smart all the time and versus the press we had a little bit of trouble. Weve got to get better on our rebounding, but I did like the way we played the second half. Not the beginning of the half, but after about three or four minutes into it I thought we started battling. We started competing and were able to execute and put some points up on the board. I was just much happier with the second half than I was the first.
The first quarter started off very slow for Johnson County, facing a strong defense that prevented the Longhorns from putting up any points for more than half the period. The first successful drive was a two-point lay-up by Brionna Reece, coupled with a foul shot to give Johnson County three. Yet, by that point Elizabethton had already made six buckets of their own, giving them twelve. At the clock the Lady Longhorns were on a little better standing with a bucket from Sarah Swift and another by Brionna Reece, putting the score at 6-14.
There was a lot of hope that the game might turn around going into the second, but problems with rebounding and turnovers, coupled with several instances of foul trouble began having their effect, and the Lady Cyclones began steadily climbing once again. An early pickup by Brandy Dugger would not be matched for nearly four minutes, when Brooke Brown managed two foul shots to put the girls to 10. At that point the Lady Cyclones had jumped to twenty and made three more buckets by the half.
The Lady Longhorns got into more foul trouble early in the third quarter, leaving some like senior Nikki Farrow very frustrated. I was thinking to myself that the refs just werent making the calls on Elizabethton when they were pushing and shoving off of us, but they call them on us every time. It was really tough because it felt like they just werent calling for us. But, rather than discouraging Johnson Countys girls it seemed that every setback only gave more drive to compete.
By the middle of the third a series of successful plays had bumped the Lady Longhorns up to 17 and then on to 23 as Brandy Dugger, Brionna Reece, and Sarah Swift all made buckets in turn. As things began picking up, Johnson County went from being behind by 21 down to 16 and seemed to be steadily gaining. Unfortunately, the Lady Cyclones werent about to let their control of the game go without a fight and began pushing back harder than ever.
Even with the heat turned up, Elizabethton was not able to take away the gains that the Lady Longhorns had made in the third, and the game hovered around a 17-point deficit for most of the last quarter, ending 36-54 at the clock. Considering the rough start, the outcome was better than first expected for Whittemore. This is a tough place to play. From here to the mountains Elizabethton is the big city, this is the big school. They did well tonight. They did a little of their point guard stuff. I thought they killed us on the board. It was another bad start to the game. We missed 14 layups in the first half. But we got it down to 17, on the road, and theyre a pretty good team.
For Farrow, as well as many of the other Lady Longhorns, being able to go toe to toe with a team like Elizabethton, even late in the game was a turn in the right direction. There at the end of the game we started getting all of our shots off and getting them in. We were going back and getting good defense. We definitely had it more together tonight than we did Tuesday.
Final Scores Johnson County 36, Elizabethton 54
Brionna Reece 14
Sarah Swift 11
Brooke Brown 6
Brandy Dugger 5
Johnson County 44, Elizabethton 50
Brooke Brown 14
Brionna Reece 12
Sarah Swift 10
Brandy Dugger 6
Gianna Lay 2