Even against some of the best teams in the region, the Lady Longhorns have proven that they have what it takes to compete, even if their season record doesnt reflect their actual ability. Going up against the Cloudland Lady Highlanders, and possibly the best local player around, Brooke Rhodes, the Lady Longhorns gave it their all, making even this formidable opponent work for their win.
Brooke Brown led the charge in Johnson Countys first quarter against the Lady Highlanders, putting up a three-pointer early, alongside a couple of two-point baskets by Mary Taylor to close out at seven. Focusing their defense on Rhodes, who scores well into the double digits on a regular basis, the Lady Longhorns were able to keep Cloudlands best shooter off the scoreboard but couldnt block off two other three-point advancements from Rachel Sparks and Madison Wilson.
We did a great job on Brooke Rhodes, said head coach Todd Whittemore. We ran a little jump defense on her, a diamond and one, the same thing we did on the Volunteer girl. Rhodes has been averaging 27 a game on the season and last night she had nine. We held her to nine points. Brooke Rhodes is definitely the best big girl around other than Science Hills big girl and if we can hold her to nine and Volunteers to seven were giving ourselves a chance. Weve just got to learn how to close the deal.
Trailing by just one bucket after the first period of the game, fans knew they were in for yet another neck and neck push for the win, and the second quarter didnt see any break away performances either. Mary Taylor continued to be a key player landing a basket and two free throws, coupled with a dead on performance at the free throw line by Sarah Swift who racked up four more points. Along with a bucket from Brandy Dugger, the Lady Longhorns closed out 10 points on the quarter to Cloudlands 11, leaving them now trailing 17-20.
As Coach Whittemore pointed out, the third quarter always seems to be Johnson Countys worst, leaving them to scramble against the clock in the fourth. It just kind of started to slip away into the third, like it always does, Whittemore said. It was 20 to 17 at halftime and they were up 3. Then in the third quarter they outscore us 12 to 5 and the fourth quarter 14 to 11. It got to about 10 or so and we couldnt break it. We stopped their best player, but our problem was holding the others back.
The Lady Longhorns simply ran into offensive trouble after the half that proved too much to overcome, but not for lack of trying. Brooke Brown made two three-point attempts, while Sarah Swift made four tries at a bucket, but all to no avail. In fact, the only actual points gain in the whole eight-minute period came from fouls, three for Swift, one for Dugger, and one for Brionna Reece. At the same time, while Rhodes was held to just two points, several of her other team mates were able to work their way into a good position with one long range shot and four buckets to bring their total up to 32 while Johnson County sat 10 points down at 22.
Johnson County bounced back on the scoreboard in the fourth as Swift was finally able to land two buckets at the net, along with freshman Kourtney Tolley and Brandy Dugger, but even scoring again the Lady Longhorns simply had too far to make up. Rhodes finally made some headway late in the period and Cloudland was able to come away with the win at 33-46.
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