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Lady Longhorns earn first victory of Todd Whittemore era

There is a picture in JCHS head girls basketball coach Todd Whittemore’s office of his 2000-01 Volunteer Boys Basketball Team after winning the District title. Though that was a great moment, he had one last Wednesday night that was almost as special.
After going through one of the toughest seasons of his life as the first year head coach of the Lady Longhorns, Whittemore and his Lady Longhorns scored the first win of the year and of this new era in a 44-37 victory over Holston, Va. at Shoun Gym.
The victory gets a big monkey of the Lady Longhorns’ back and now the team can move forward.
“This one is different from anything,” Whittemore said. “It’s hard right now to put it in a spot because tonight it was more for the girls. My other teams have never gone through what these girls have gone through. We have had all kinds of bad luck and these girls have come to practice every day and have worked hard and have wanted to know what we can do to get a chance to win. This one was probably the most satisfying for the players. This group needed a win more than that team needed a championship. This was more important to the progress of our program. That win in 2001 was awesome, but this win tonight was more important for the program. The girls needed this. Now it could just take off. They know they can win now. We needed this.”
Though it was a special night for Coach Whittemore, it really was a great night for the JCHS players.
The Lady Longhorns were in a tight one throughout, but never panicked when the Lady Cavs made a serious run.
From Rebecca Royston’s 60 foot shot at the buzzer before halftime that didn’t count but sent the crowd in a frenzy to a 10-3 run to end the game, it was obvious this was going to be the night the Lady Longhorns’ frustration ended.
“We knew this was it,” JCHS freshman point guard Brooke Brown said. “Even though Rebecca’s shot at half court didn’t count it just felt like it was going to be a win tonight.”
Brown said the momentum from having the lead at halftime and the miraculous shot by Royston was a sign that the streak was coming to an end.
“It meant so much,” Brown said. “We all felt that we were going to win.”
The Lady Longhorns definitely had a special moment last week after having a year of total frustration and this young rising star felt a lot of relief.
“This means so much,” she said. “This is like an addiction, I want to keep winning and winning again. We have to keep on winning. We’re going to keep playing hard.”
For senior Rebecca Royston, the lone senior for JCHS who played in the game, the win was one that she worked hard to get.
Royston had been sick all week and did not play in the Hampton game last Monday.
Royston gave it all she had on Wednesday and was able to enjoy a special moment with the her teammates.
“My doctor said I wasn’t allowed to play tonight, but I said I had to play tonight,” she said. “I tried not to act like sick.”
Royston has been a real leader on this team and has been very supportive of her young teammates.
“I’ve had to be really patient because most of them are young,” she said. “I like playing with them. I’m glad I get to play with them and I hope to get to watch them play. I hope they’ve learned something for me.”
The star of the game was Sarah Swift, who finished with 19 points and really took over in the fourth quarter.
Swift carried the Lady Longhorns on Wednesday night and her 19 points is the highest point total by a Lady Longhorn this season.
Swift is only a sophomore, meaning bright days for the post player are ahead.
“I was really feeling it as soon as we stepped on the court,” Swift said. “I knew this was our game. I knew this was our chance to get a win because we had a rough start and I knew tonight was the night. I knew I had to do the absolute best that I could.”
Swift emphasized that the win on Wednesday night was a team-win and that everyone did their part.
“We were all where we needed to be and knew what needed to get done,” Swift said. “We played very well together.”
The Lady Longhorns were very hungry to get a win and after all they’ve gone through, JCHS was able to have a moment they will never forget.
“We wanted it and you could tell,” Swift said. “We knew we had to come out here and had to want it more than them and we did and it feels awesome and I can’t even describe how good it feels and I want to just go out and beat every team. It feels great.”
The Lady Longhorns are also happy for Coach Whittemore and what he’s been through as the JCHS Coach.
“I’m sure it feels good for him because he’s come from winning championships and winning all these trophies and everything and he knew what it would be when he came down here and he was patient and so was Robbie McCullouch and we knew we would come together sooner or later and we’re just going to keep on getting better.”

JCHS Scoring: Sarah Swift 19, Rebecca Royston 9, Nikki Farrow 2, Brooke Brown 10, Brandy Dugger 2, Brionna Reece 2.

Holston Scoring: MacKenzie Richardson 2, Faith Ritchie 5, Mary Hand 6, Brittany Boyd 5, Taylor Doss 12, Mary Katherine Hayden 2, Morgan Lowe 2, Presley Patrick 4.

Friday’s Game
Happy Valley 52
JCHS 20
JCHS Scoring: Brooke Brown 9, Rebecca Royston 2, Sarah Swift 2, Brionna Reece 2, Brandy Dugger 5.

Monday’s Game
Castlewood 46
JCHS 37
The Longhorns were outscored 26-13 to end the game and saw their first half lead fall away.
JCHS came out hitting early and then in the second quarter used a great defensive effort to pull out to a four-point advantage.
The Longhorns frustrated the Castlewood post players early, but the Lady Blue Devils came on strong in the second half.
The Lady Longhorns had to play catch-up, but struggled to hit their shots down the stretch.
JCHS did cut Castlewood’s lead to five points at 39-34, but couldn’t get any closer.
Royston had another strong game for JCHS, finishing with 12 points.
The Lady Longhorns host Tri-Cities Christian on Senior Night Thursday and then travel to Unicoi County Friday and Unaka on Monday.