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Lady 'Horns win first conference game over Raiders

It was an emotionally charged night in Mountain City, as the Johnson County Lady Longhorns took on the Sullivan North Lady Raiders. Coming on the heels of a tense boys junior varsity game that ended in a double overtime victory, the home team crowd was pumped and excited as the Lady Longhorns made their way onto the court. With every Johnson County bucket the roof felt like it would lift off with the cheers and shouts of elated fans, and the Johnson County girls did not fail to impress.
Getting off to a rough start, the Lady Longhorns poured all they had into an amazing second quarter that left them with a nine-point lead. Not to be outdone, the Lady Raiders fought back in the second half. But, with no lack of support, Johnson County showed their ever increasing skills, and pulled off a nerve rending victory, 61-55.
Yet, there was probably no one quite as anxious as sophomore Brionna Reece who played her heart out; taking charge and earning her team 21 points. Time and again Reece managed to gain control of the ball, making several strong drives to the goal. Among the many fans that witnessed her success was Brionna’s father, Brian Reece.
Despite suffering from a very serious illness that has left him bedfast, Brian gathered his strength and came to see his daughter play one more time. After the game the whole team gathered around to show their support and appreciation for one of their most dedicated fans, yet the real victory fell to his daughter Brionna. “This was a very big win for me. In my head I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to win this for my dad just to make him proud of me’ and for me to have self confidence, knowing I can do something I put my mind to.”
Yet, even without this intensely emotional twist to the outcome, this game is sure to go down as one of the Lady Longhorns’ best moments of the season. Despite starting off on a rough first quarter that saw Johnson County behind by six, the tables rapidly turned in the second quarter with the Lady Longhorns taking and keeping the lead. Sullivan North was held at bay, gaining only five points in the whole second quarter compared to Johnson County’s 16.
Coming in to the third quarter, it appeared that the Lady Longhorns would run away with the game, with bucket after bucket by Sara Swift, Reece, and Mary Taylor. Halfway through the quarter Johnson County was ahead 29-20, but the Lady Longhorns were unable to hang on to their momentum and the Lady Raiders soon began to pick up the slack. Battling on, but consistently slipping, Johnson County held a tenuous two-point lead in the last minute and even tied with ten seconds left on the clock. A last second bucket by Sarah Swift was a saving grace that ended the third 35-33.
It seemed as though Sullivan North might have been reserving their strength for the end of the game going into the fourth, but the Lady Longhorns never gave up and maintained a thin lead throughout the first half of the period. Fortunately, the Lady Raiders had a bad run again in the last three minutes of the game, giving Johnson County a window of opportunity that was quickly taken. Holding Sullivan North back, while at the same time making a run of their own, the Lady Longhorns put up a string of baskets that brought the final score to 61-55.
After the game coach Whittemore commented on the very memorable night. “Just to have Brian Reece here was a special moment. I really feel blessed to be a part of this tonight. Brian is not doing well at all and gathered up enough strength to come out and see us play. I don’t know how many more games he’ll get to see, but I’m sure glad he was here. His daughter scored 21 points and we won our first conference game since I became the girls’ coach. It’s been a year and a half but we finally won our first conference game.”
Summing it all up, Whittemore went on to say, “The fact that Brian Reece was able to be here tonight, that his daughter played well, that we won, that it was a home game, and that we won our first conference game; you know a lot of things have aligned to make this a special night. This was a good night for Lady Longhorns basketball.”
Final scores
Brionna Reece 21
Brooke Brown 15
Sarah Swift 11
Mary Taylor 8
Nikki Farrow 2
Brandy Dugger 2