November 21, 2018
By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
The late Aretha Franklin sang about it and Johnson County is hoping to earn it. The Lady Longhorns are determined to gather some “respect” among their league opponents by reaching the regional tournament for the first time in nearly two decades. They are picked to finish last by the league coaches but this year’s squad is a little different from past years. They return nearly their entire team off a squad that managed just five wins last season. The Longhorns don’t have a senior on the squad but Head coach Leon Tolley looks for his team to be much improved in his second year at the helm. He hopes this group might be the one to get the program over the hump.
“We’ve got a lot of experience despite not having any seniors,” said Tolley. “Most of them have played since they were freshmen. The main thing we have to do is get some confidence in ourselves and get a little tougher. We’ve got to get to where we can play better offensively. We improved quite a bit on defense over the summer but we have to be able to score. The one thing this group has is great chemistry. They like one another and they get along well. We’re a lot more organized this year than we at this time last year but that was no fault to the girls. I like the makeup of this team and I’m expecting us to be better because others teams will be better too. Our schedule is tougher this year so hopefully we’ll be ready by tournament time.”
The Lady Longhorns must replace starters Courtney Brooks to graduation and junior Adrian Hall their best shooters. They’ll try and compensate with a seven man rotation to take up some of the scoring slack. Juniors Natalie Winters, Taylor Parsons and Taylor Cox will likely be in the starting lineup. Sophomores Emmy Miller and Sadie Stout will join them. Juniors Abby Cornett and Hazlee Kleine will be counted on to play a lot of minutes in the early going as the team looks to build some depth.
“Winters, Parsons, Cox and Cornett will provide the leadership for our team along with Kleine,” added Tolley. “Miller and Stout will have to do their part to.”
Tolley said that Winters and Stout would share the point guard duties. Parsons, Miller and Kliene will have to do the dirty work inside and guard the other team’s top player.
“Our kids will need to be versatile,” added Tolley. “We’ll start out with a seven man rotation and hopefully later on some others will be able to contribute.”
One of those will likely be sophomore forward Rhiannon Icenhour who is a strong rebounder and has size. Freshman Jacey Eshelman and sophomores Tiffany Price and Abby Lipford will likely via for some playing time. Johnson County defeated Happy Valley twice and Elizabethton on the road in conference play last year. Their non-conference wins came against Hampton and David Crockett. Winters, Parsons, Cox, Stout, Cornett and Miller were all in agreement on one thing. Their first of many goals is to make the regional tournament.
“That definitely should be one of their goals,” said Tolley. “They have the talent level and ability to do it but it just a matter of them doing it at that time. They were nervous in the first round of the District last year because they knew they hadn’t been there in so many years. They put un-do pressure on themselves. I don’t see that happening this year.”
Tolley tabbed Sullivan Central as the team to beat in the Three Rivers Conference.
“They were good last year and have almost everyone back. Sullivan East is always strong and Sullivan South will be good with a lot of key players returning. You can never count out Elizabethton or Unicoi County either. It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us. Our schedule contains good teams from top to bottom. We don’t have any easy win there.”