For the second time this season the Lady Longhorns were unable to pull off a win against the Cherokee Lady Chiefs from Rogersville. Having played a very poor first half against the same opponent at a Happy Valley Thanksgiving tournament only to battle back within a couple of points by the fourth quarter, the Lady Longhorns were determined to keep up from the very first possession. While Johnson County was able to put up a steady stream of baskets throughout the game, this match up did not have the big end of the game rally that was needed to take and hold the lead.
Obviously frustrated, Coach Todd Whittemore had little good to say about the game. We dont get it, Whittemore said. Were that mailman that keeps going through that same yard and keeps getting bitten by that same dog everyday. Thats us right now. We talk about not being that mailman but we keep being that mailman. Theyre good girls, they play hard, they try, but losing has got to be more important right now than it is to us. Hating to lose has got to become more important.
The Lady Chiefs pulled ahead early, commanding the first two possessions to rack up a quick four-point lead. From there Johnson County was forced to play a never ending game of catch up, with Sarah Swift making the first score off a foul followed by a basket plus one from Brooke Brown. Two more Cherokee buckets brought the score back up to 4-8, with a last basket coming in under a minute on the clock. Sarah Swift was able to answer with two of her own, but the Longhorns were still trailing by two at the buzzer.
Buckets by Brandy Dugger and Brionna Reece actually gave Johnson County a short lead at 12-10 early in the second, but thanks to a couple of critical turnovers, Cherokee was back in control with yet another four point cushion. Defensively, both teams played very hard and many of the pushes toward the goal either resulted in fouls or turnovers. Brandy Dugger was the last to score for Johnson County before the half, putting up two free throws to close out at 14-18.
The second half followed the same pattern with Cherokee pulling ahead with a couple of strong possessions only to allow Johnson County to catch up. Thanks to a strong performance by Sarah Swift early in the third, when she nailed four back-to-back shots, the game tied up at 22. Yet with two fouls and a bucket to the Lady Chiefs favor, even this push did not allow the Lady Longhorns to finish out the period in control of the game.
Coming into the fourth still trailing by 4 at 24-28, Johnson County made every effort to close the gap for good, but a handful of costly mistakes gave Cherokee enough trips to the foul line to do just the opposite, jumping ahead by 10 before the Lady Longhorns could get back on track. Even then, Brooke Brown and Sarah Swift were able to cut it to four with 20 seconds remaining in the game. Holding the ball like so many teams have done this season, Johnson Countys defense worked hard to take back possession but were only given fouls for their effort, bringing the final score down to a 36-41 loss.
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