It was as though two very different teams were playing the different halves of Johnson Countys game against the Cherokee Lady Chiefs last weekend. A part of the Ramey Ford Thanksgiving Classic at Happy Valley High School, the Lady Longhorns had an extremely rough first two quarters where nothing seemed to go their way. Turnovers, missed lay-ups, fouls, and bad shots all added up to an extremely disappointing halftime score of 13-32.
Yet, even when most fans had given up the game for lost, Johnson County made an astounding comeback toward the end of the third quarter which saw the team trailing by just four points in the last minute of the game. Even head coach Todd Whittemore seemed caught off guard by the dramatic turn of events. I just dont know how you can score 13 points in the first half and then 43 in the second, Whittemore said. We just didnt come to play. Were still trying to find ourselves. I was very proud of the way they played in the second half but thats what we want to do for four quarters. We cant give people a 24-point lead. Im very proud of the second half but its getting to the point where its not ok to play two or three good quarters and then fall short. Its not acceptable for us. Were past that; were better than that. Weve got to close some games out.
The game was off kilter right from the start with Cherokee using their height and size advantage to blow past the Lady Longhorns 0-17 before they made even a single score. Brooke Brown was the first to put Johnson County on the board but that was with just over a minute left in the quarter. Brown managed one more basket with 36 seconds on the clock, but the Lady Longhorns were still coming into the second down 5-17
Things only got worse closer to halftime as Johnson County continued to foul their opponent and leave Cherokees offense wide open to shoot several three-point shots. The one bright spot that the Lady Longhorns could claim was that they did well on making their free throws, but were so rarely at the line that it made little difference overall. Yet, even as the second quarter drew to a close at 13-32, the Lady Longhorns had still not hit their lowest point.
Throughout the third quarter Johnson County struggled on. Foul shots continued to be good with Brandy Dugger, Brionna Reece, Sarah Swift, and Brooke Brown all racking up points. Despite finally putting up some offense, the Lady Chiefs kicked up their game as well. The lead bounced around the low 20s, at one point allowing Cherokee to pull ahead as much as 24 points. As fans on Johnson Countys side became more and more frustrated with the game, often vocally, the refs became more irritated as well, ultimately calling a technical foul against Coach Whittemore who was debatably out of the box.
Little did anyone expect, but this last straw also signified a huge change in the momentum of the game. Starting with two buckets by Sarah Swift and another from Brooke Brown, the Lady Longhorns finally broke into the 20s on the scoreboard and with a last second shot by Mary Taylor, actually ended up at 31 before the beginning of the fourth. However, while things were looking a little brighter coming into the fourth, no one, especially Cherokee, was ready for Johnson Countys explosive rise in the last minutes of the game.
Right out of the gate, Brionna Reece landed a two-point bucket, followed seconds later by a two free throws from Mary Taylor, a bucket by Brooke Brown, and another set of foul shots for Sarah Swift. In that one fell swoop the Lady Longhorns regained 8 of the 19 points separating them from the lead. Far from letting the opportunity go, Johnson County seized their chance to change the game, capitalized by 3 amazing long-range shots from Brooke Brown. Closing the gap even further at 52-58, the Lady Longhorns found themselves within winning range with just over a minute on the clock.
Unfortunately, like many of the tougher teams theyve played so far this season, Cherokee began to play very cautiously, holding the ball as much as they could and forcing Johnson County to take quick action. A final foul for Brionna Reece brought the deficit down to just four points at 54-58, but with only 52 seconds left on the clock, the amazing comeback was just too little too late. After fouling in an attempt to get turn over the ball, Johnson County ultimately came up with a loss at 56-62.
Speaking about the game, Reece tried to explain her teams mindset. I think we just need a little time to warm up and get into the basketball mode, Reece said. Weve got to change that. We need to show up and be ready to play. Whenever teams like this come out and just score and score on us we get to where were like now what do we do. But then if we can start back it can all change. I think that our big problem with the lay-ups is that we get too excited and then we forget that were just shooting a lay-up.
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