By Tim Chambers
Johnson County is no longer “Whoville” when it comes to girls’ basketball. Just ask Elizabethton. The Longhorns shut down the Lady Cyclones’ offense in the second half like the “Grinch” did Christmas and came away with a 49-35 victory before a jubilant crowd inside of Ray Shoun Gymnasium on Friday.
It was the second year in a row that the Lady Horns had tasted victory over ‘Betsy. The Horns enjoyed a one-point win last year on the Cyclones’ home court, but this one was more impressive.
Elizabethton scored just 14 second-half points on Johnson County’s stingy defense which pretty much decided the outcome. Head coach Leon Tolley gave his analysis on the outcome.
“We felt like somebody had to do something positive and then it would become contagious,” said Tolley. “We missed some shots in the first half; the rims appeared smaller. We started making some shots in the third quarter, and suddenly our scoring became contagious. Elizabethton hit a scoring lull in the first half and let us back in it. I felt like we were the aggressor in the second half because we kept changing up our defenses. That and our rebounding I felt like was the difference.”
A Longhorns’ victory didn’t look probable in the first quarter.
Elizabethton stormed out to a 13-6 lead after one thanks to seven first-quarter points by Kaylen Shell and a long three-ball from Torrie Roberts.
From there the Horns begin to chip away at the deficit.
Taylor Cox led the surge scoring seven points in the second quarter allowing Johnson County to get within two at 18-16. They trailed at the half 21-20, but a putback by Emmy Miller appeared to swing the momentum in their favor.
It was apparent after the intermission break.
The Longhorns got three quick buckets from Natalie Winters, Taylor Parsons and Cox to go up 26-21 before two minutes had elapsed. Winters enjoyed a huge quarter scoring six points including two nifty drives that pushed the lead up to eight.
Cox bombed in a three-ball that stretched their advantage at 34-23 with 1:39 left in the frame.
“I felt like we had the game right there,” said Parsons when they took the 11-point advantage. “We could see they were frustrated because they couldn’t hit their shots. Beating Elizabethton was a great way to open up our conference schedule. We had to play well to beat them.”
The Longhorns led 38-27 heading into the final period, and Cox made sure that the lead didn’t evaporate.
She got a pair of great feeds from Parsons and Sadie Stout to start the quarter that put the Horns up by a baker’s dozen. Miller added three key free throws as the lead grew to 15 late in the game.
Cox ended the contest with a game-high 24 points along with four steals and five rebounds. She felt like teamwork was the difference.
“My teammates got me the basketball, and everyone was looking for the open pass,” said Cox. “We worked as a team, and our defense played great. We hadn’t beaten them up here in 20 or so years so getting a win in front of our crowd was great. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Miller and Parsons added eight and seven points respectively, but their work on the backboards paid dividends. They combined to collect 23 rebounds with Miller gathering 13 of them.
“It felt good to get this win because all of us were working together,” said Miller. “We definitely wanted to beat Elizabethton up here in front of our fans.”
Winters provided seven points, four assists, and two steals. Stout was held to two points but helped the cause with six rebounds, four steals, and four assists. Abby Cornett and Hazlee Kleine logged some valuable minutes off the bench making the victory complete.
Winters said the loss to Cloudland on Tuesday was an eye-opener.
“We had a lot more confidence in ourselves and one another tonight than we did against Cloudland,” said Winters. “That loss hurt, and we wanted to redeem ourselves. I felt like we did that in front of our home fans. Beating them is always special but more so tonight because it was here.”
Shell led the Cyclones with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Elizabethton 12 9 6 8 –35
Johnson Co. 6 14 18 11 –49
3-point goals—Eliz 4 (Shell 2, Roberts, Winters) JC 1 (Cox)
Shell 23, Townsend 5, Winters 3, Roberts 4, VanHuss 0, Norris 0.
Johnson Co. (49)
Cox 24, Miller 8, Parsons 7, Winters 7, Stout 2, Cornett 1, Kleine 0.