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Lady Horns put up tough fight against Cloudland

Lady Horns put up tough fight against Cloudland
For the second time in less than a week the Lady Longhorns put up an amazing battle against an exceptional opponent, in spite of overwhelming odds against them. In this case Johnson County faced the daunting task of trying to best the Cloudland Lady Highlanders in their own home gym, a court already notorious for its tendency to sway the final outcome against the visitors. Even so, the Lady Longhorns still made a memorable impression in a huge first quarter drive that left them leading the charge into the second. A long dry spell that didn’t break until the fourth ultimately spelled defeat for Johnson County’s girls, but they still made a huge comeback late in the game by outscoring Cloudland 17-13 in the final eight minutes.
“Here’s the good thing,” said Head Coach Todd Whittemore, “We normally come over here and turn it over 30 times. We didn’t do that tonight and we did do a better job rebounding. Our interior defense other than that second quarter was pretty good. When you come in and play the number nine team in the state, who are fresh off of winning the Johnson City Honda Classic where we got hammered several times, and we come into their gym and put a scare in them the first half and outscore them in the fourth quarter, as a coach I’m proud as heck of them.”
Johnson County got off to a strong start that was a true team effort. Senior Brooke Brown led in the initial points, landing four baskets on her own, but was backed up by significant plays from Kelsey Duperry, Kourtney Tolley, and Michala Cretsinger, who all did very well regaining the rebound and utilizing turnovers to gain critical points. As a result, by the start of the second Johnson County was actually leading against the Lady Highlanders 18-14, dominantly showing the opposition that they meant business.
As Coach Whittemore pointed out, foul trouble early in the second set back what could have been a stupendous first half, leaving the Lady Long¬horns to falter offensively even though the defense was still strong. “I thought it was a great first half,” Whittemore began, “but we had two technicals tonight, one on the bench, and those were at tough times. At one time we had the ball, got the technical, and now we lose the ball and they get two free throws and the ball back.”
In the end Johnson County held Cloudland to just 11 points, but failed to put up any of their own in the second quarter. The hole only got deeper after the half as Cloud¬land finally started working around the Lady Longhorn’s defense to gain a total of 21 points in the third while Johnson County managed only three buckets total, plus one foul shot from Cretsinger. Brown made two of those advances, but with a 25-46 deficit things did not look good coming into the fourth. Yet even at this low point in the game, the biggest problem overall was a lack of accuracy from the free throw line. Time and again Johnson County would gain a huge opportunity to make two points on a one and one offensive foul, but would fail to land the first basket, usually resulting in a turnover to Cloudland who would run it in for two points.
“The third quarter really hurt us, but here’s the bottom line,” said Whittemore. “ I just can’t say it’s excusable when we lose by 17 and we miss 18 free throws. At least four were front ends of one and ones. Kourtney in particular is a little down on herself. She missed eight free throws in the second half but that’s a fixable thing. We’ve been cursed by free throws, but at some point these girls are going to realize how important they are and I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”
Those two shortfalls behind them, the Lady Longhorns made a valiant effort to regain ground in the fourth. Brown had her best run of the night with four baskets and a foul shot, while just about every other player in the starting line made some form of advance. Even though she carried the game offensively Brown was working through the pain of a recently dislocated rib that was playing havoc on her back. “I want to comment on Brooke Brown,” Whittemore said, “Her back is killing her. She won’t tell anyone but her back is sore. When the game started tonight she was second in Northeast Tennessee in scoring. She had 21 points tonight and didn’t even have a good game.”
Keeping in mind the reputation and home court advantage of their opponent, as well as the relative youth of the team, while also adding in that their unofficial captain was play¬ing through a recent injury and the perspective changes dramatically on just how well the Lady Longhorns performed against the Cloudland Lady Highlanders. Even though a win simply wasn’t in the cards, fans could still be very proud to call Johnson County’s team their own and take comfort in the hope for brighter things in the near future.
“As a coach you want your team to play hard and play together and we did that,” Whittemore concluded. “The things that we fell short on are fixable things. Right now my assistant Coach Rusty Chambers hits it perfect when he says ‘on paper we’re a JV team plus Brooke Brown and we’re playing varsity competition.’ I tell you what though; if they keep playing this hard then by tournament time we’re going to be a real varsity team.”
Final Score: Johnson County 42- Cloudland 59
Brooke Brown 21
Kourtney Tolley 9
Kelsey Duperry 6
Michala Cretsinger 3
Amanda Potter 2