A slow start robbed the Lady Longhorns of what could have been their first huge win for the season against the Cloudland Lady Highlanders last Monday night. Scoring only six points to Cloudlands 16 in that first period, Johnson County was forced to trail the Highlanders all the way down to the last minute of the game, despite cutting it to just five points late in the fourth quarter.
We took good shots but we just couldnt buy a lay-up, said head coach Todd Whittemore. Wed take three or four chances out of it and then not get anything out of it. Cloudland got that big 10-point lead after the first quarter and it seemed like they didnt have to shoot a jump shot. Everything they got was lay-ups or just point blank and theyd only need one shot at it where wed shoot three or four and not get anything. I did like the way our girls fought back and battled as usual. We seem to be good at that. We can dig a hole and we can fight part of the way out of it, but we just have to stop digging ourselves holes in the first place.
The Lady Longhorns consistently trailed by 10 throughout the second and third quarters, and for almost every Lady Highlander shot, one of Johnson Countys players could land an answer. Offensive work was split between Brooke Brown, Mary Taylor, Sarah Swift, and Brionna Reece. Using some expertly designed plays, Taylor, Brown, and Swift took turns feeding the ball to Reece at the post position, who then made some excellent lay-ups despite a fierce Cloudland defense.
Reece managed 17 points in all, with many of the plays resulting in trips to the foul line. Coach Whittemore pointed out the Lady Longhorns accuracy with free throws left something to be desired. The excruciatingly painful part of this is that we were 15 of 28 from the free throw line, Whittemore said. There are elderly people, there are Special Olympics athletes, and there are people with all kinds of challenges that can shoot free throws. We have 12 healthy girls and we cant do 15 of 28? Im sorry, but that is not acceptable. We can look at all the mistakes and the turnovers, maybe even the fouls, but the bottom line is that we lost by 10 and we missed 13 free throws. If nothing else, thats how I can dummy up the loss, just looking at the free throws. Lets have a different reason why we dont win, not free throws.
Despite trouble landing some of their shots, the Lady Longhorns performed exceptionally, showing once again a growing mastery of the court even against some of the toughest competition in the area. Making exception for the first quarter, Johnson County tied or even outscored the Lady Highlanders for the rest of the game. In the third quarter alone Brandy Dugger, Brionna Reece, and Brooke Brown all landed multiple shots, with Brown even adding a three pointer to her credit.
Battling back to within six points of the lead by the fourth quarter at 30-36, the game was a true team effort, with several players like Kristin Roark and Kourtney Tolley coming in from the bench and lending critical support. Tolley in particular proved to be a very versatile player, making several strong passes and attempting a close shot that could have been a game changer.
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