By Tim Chambers
It wasn’t D-day back on January 8, but the Lady Longhorns did suffer their worst loss of the season to Happy Valley on that date. The 61-36 shellacking left a bad taste in their mouths.
On Friday they broke out the breath mints, erased the bad taste, and then celebrated a stunning 44-41 win over the Warriors on what is now known as Coach Austin Atwood Court.
The Lady Longhorns did so in roller coaster fashion. They were able to build a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter only to watch the Valley rally and lead by three late in the fourth.
They were also without their second-leading scorer and rebounder Taylor Parsons who was sick and could not play. Head coach Leon Tolley liked what he saw out of his “refuse to lose Lady Longhorns.” It was a gusty effort according to him.
“Everyone knew they had to do a little extra tonight with Taylor out,” said Tolley. “Sometimes adversity can cause players to elevate their game a little bit, and that could have been the case tonight. I thought they took the fight to us when we played them down there, but tonight I felt like we were the aggressor for three out of the four quarters. We needed this win in the worst way.”
Lady Longhorn enjoy strong second quarter
Neither team could generate much offense in the first quarter as the score was tied 6-6 after one. The second quarter was a different story.
Happy Valley scored their first five points in the frame and went on top 11-6, but the Horns would quickly recover.
They went on a 12-2 run sparked by five points from Taylor Cox, a long three by Sadie Stout and four Emmy Miller free throws that put them on top 18-13.
Cox closed out the quarter by swishing another three-ball at the buzzer, and Johnson County led 24-14 at the half. She didn’t score in the first quarter.
“Coach Tolley kept telling me to shoot and not hesitate,” said Cox. “We were confident coming into the game, and we didn’t forget what happened down there. We had to play extra hard with Taylor out, and we did so. We wanted to win this one for her.”
The Lady Horns were outscored 16-5 in the third quarter, and Sadie Stout had all five. The Warriors held a 30-29 lead going into the final stanza that set the stage for one wild finish.
Horns hang on
The game see-sawed back and forth until Adrienne Henegar’s three-ball put the Warriors on top 37-34 with 3:44 remaining but their lead was short-lived.
Miller converted a couple of charity tosses, and Cox added two baskets that put the Horns in front to stay at 40-39 at the 1:56 mark. Key free throws by Stout and one from Cox in the final 40 seconds gave them a 44-41 lead.
Henegar tried to get off desperation three in the final seconds but Abby Cornett shut that down with a nice defensive play, and the Horns walked away with the victory.
Stout led the Lady Longhorns with 16 points. She said her team came in focused on what they had to do to win.
“We knew with Taylor out that we had to rebound because of their size,” said Stout. “We wanted this game really bad because we felt like they rubbed it in our faces down there. We didn’t want to let that
Happen again up here at our place.”
Cox aided the win with 13 points and seven rebounds. Miller had a big night scoring 11 points and grabbing six boards. Natalie Winters had five assists including two down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Rhiannon Icenhour came off the bench to grab seven rebounds, and Hazlee Kleine added five boards. Their play was crucial according to Winters.
“I felt like we got some good play off the bench from Abby, Rhiannon and Jacey Eshelman,” said Winters. “The defensive job Abby has done on Henegar at the end was crucial, and Rhiannon did a great job of rebounding, and so did Hazlee. We couldn’t have won this game without that.”
Icenhour had seven big rebounds off the bench, and Kleine provided five against Happy Valley’s 6’1 center Sha Whitson who finished with 19 points.
Tolley praised Whitson and applauded his squad.
“You’re not going to stop Whitson because she is such a good player,” added Tolley. “I thought we got a lot of effort from our kids on the defensive end. We aimed to make them shoot twos because they are such a good three-point shooting team with Henegar. I was happy with the way our kids played for three-quarters tonight.”
The Horns are now 3-7 in league play and 11-12 overall.
JCHS 44, Happy Valley 41
JOHNSON COUNTY (44)
Stout 16, Cox 13, Miller 11, Winters 2, Icenhour 2, Kleine 0, Cornett 0, Eshelman 0
3-point goals—JC 4 (Stout 3, Cox 1) HV 1 (Long 1)