The Lady Longhorns celebrate in the dressing room after defeating East for 3rd place for their record number 23rd win.
By Tim Chambers
Not many were picking Johnson County to defeat Sullivan East without its leading scorer Taylor Cox. But senior post player Taylor Parsons and the rest of the Lady Longhorns had other ideas.
“We’re a team,” said senior post player Taylor Parsons. “It’s not just been one or two players. I’m part of this team, and so is everyone else that is in uniform. We knew we could win. We just had to go out and prove it.”
They proved it, especially junior guard Sadie Stout. Her first-half performance dazzled a partisan Patriots crowd when she went for 19 that including four treys and two 3-point plays the old fashioned way. The Longhorns got off to a slow start and trailed 17-7 after one-quarter of play before catching fire in the second quarter. Stout hit the first bucket, and Parsons converted a steal into a full-court layup that sparked fury from the Lady Horns.
The Horns came out of the timeout by East and got a turnover at which point guard Natalie Winters threaded the needle to a wide-open Emmy Miller underneath, and suddenly, the Horns were within one and had East reeling. Stout hit for four consecutive points to tie the game at 21 all, and from there, they outscored the Lady Patriots 11-3 to close the half and go up 32-24 at the half. Stout got the Horns off to a good start in the third with a pair of free throws, and it would have been more had it not been for four tick-tack charging calls that went against the Horns after they had scored that wiped eight points off the board.
It appeared as if the Horns were beating the East defense to the spot, and their defenders were getting there late, running up under the Johnson County shooters. Instead of complaining, the Lady Longhorns played through the calls and continued their stellar play. With some critical free throws, they built the lead at 40-34 to end the third quarter then silenced the home crowd with a fourth-quarter effort that was one for the ages.
Head coach Leon Tolley once again showed his value on the sidelines, calling a timeout after East had cut it to four and settled his team down. Not only did they settle down but scored out of the timeout that helped the cause. Point guard Natalie Winters, Parsons, and Stout hit critical free throws down the stretch that had a large gathering of Longhorn fans standing to cheer them on down the stretch run.
Stout poured in 26 points her best effort of the seasons. Winters played her best game, scoring nine points and dishing out seven assists. Parsons added seven points and six rebounds, while Hazlee Kleine came off the bench to grab ten rebounds. Abby Cornett filled the fifth starting role well by collecting five steals to go along with six points, including one huge trey in the second quarter after Central threatened to make a run. Parsons and Stout were selected to the All-Tournament team for the Longhorns. Johnson County is now 23-11 on the season and continues to add to its record number of wins. East falls to 22-12.
East was led by their freshman duo of Jenna Hare and Riley Nelson, who scored 15 and 11 points respectively. With their third-place finish, the Longhorns will play the loser of Grainger County and South Greene on Friday. The two teams will play tonight in the District 2-AA championship game at Grainger County High School.
Girls, Third Place
JOHNSON COUNTY (52)
Miller 4, Parsons 7, Cornett 6, Winters 9, Stout 26.
SULLIVAN EAST (46)
Olson 2, Bringman 6, Nelson 11, Hare 15, Grubb 7, Rutledge 2, Nunley 3.
JCHS 7 23 10 12 -52
Sullivan E. 17 7 10 12 -46
3 pt goals — Johnson County 6 (Stout 4, Cornett 2), East 4 (Hare 3, Bringman).