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Lady 'Horns lose last game of regular season

Playing in the last scheduled game of the season without the pressure of a win or loss affecting their position going into the tournament, the Johnson County Lady Longhorns seemed to be more focused working on some of their game strategies and techniques than the final outcome of the game. Yet, despite having less pressure for the win the Lady Longhorns did not give the Cloudland Lady Highlanders an easy victory either.
Being the last home game for the Lady Highlanders, the game was also host to senior night activities and was the Relay for Life Pink Out game. Coaches and supporters wore pink shirts, both Cloudland teams wore pink socks, and the Highlanders even gave pink shoelaces for Johnson County to wear, all in support of cancer awareness.
Making the girls game even more special was a unique Cloudland starting line up that featured Senior Renee Proffitt, who was seriously injured in a car accident her sophomore year. Although the accident has left her unable to really play, she remained on the roster to support her teammates. The Lady Longhorns held back for the first shot of the game, giving Renee her only recorded score of the season. In a show of sportsmanship the Lady Highlanders then gave Brooke Brown the opportunity to get a layup, evening the score 2-2 before the action really began to take place.
The Lady Highlanders got under way with a big three-pointer followed by a rebound and a layup that put them to nine. Sarah Swift made the second basket for the Lady Longhorns, which was followed by one from Brandy Dugger and Brionna Reece minutes later. Unfortunately Johnson County was unable to gain any more ground in the first quarter, while the Lady Landers had doubled the lead 16-8, with the help of another three-point shot.
The second quarter didn’t fare too much better for the Lady Longhorns, remaining at around half of Cloudland’s score for most of the period. Three minutes in, the score was 20-10, following two successful free throws from Reece. By the two-minute mark, things had gotten worse at 14-30, despite fouls against both Reece and Mary Taylor that put up a few more free throws.
However, for Coach Todd Whittemore this game was more about practice and preparation than anything else. “After half time we just said we wanted to work on some things. We tried to run a special defense on Brooke for that big girl because if we do win Thursday we may play a team from another district that has a good, big girl. So, on one of the best big girls in East Tennessee we did a Diamond and One and held her to six points. She is one of the best players in this area and we wanted to make it hard for her. We can use that if we are able to qualify for region, and if not we’ll just save it for next year.”
The second half largely followed the pattern of the first with the Lady Landers climbing ever higher on the score board with a line of layups, rebounds, and well timed threes. The Lady Longhorns were forced to rely mostly on free throws with the exception of a couple of buckets by Brown that put the third quarter score at 60-26. Although Whittemore anticipated this game as more of an experience booster, the coach seemed a little disappointed with the Lady Longhorns overall performance. “We wanted to try to get some points scored. Seventeen was not enough for that first half. We couldn’t handle the press. But on our defense we saw something we liked. We held Cloudland’s shooter to six points, and we felt good about that. We were tired from last night, and I think that showed, but this game doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s all about Thursday night.”
The fourth quarter was a little better for the Lady Longhorns, but even with buckets from Brown, Swift, and a surprise last shot by senior Kelly Jennings, the score was just too far down to make much of a difference. Despite a rough loss with a final score of 70-36, the Lady Longhorns were still able to gain some valuable playing time against one of the highest ranked teams in the area, with several senior girls who have been playing for as many as 13 years. Though it does little so late in the season this year, every bump in the road just makes the Lady Longhorns a tougher team to beat come fall.

Final Scores: Johnson County 36, Cloudland 70
Sarah Swift 14
Brooke Brown 8
Brionna Reece 6
Brandy Dugger 3
Kelly Jennings 2
Gianna Lay 2
Nikki Farrow 1