By Tim Chambers
The Lady Longhorns fought like a junkyard dog for 32 minutes only to come up just a little short against a very talented Unicoi County squad on Friday. The Blue Devils walked away from Ray Shoun Gymnasium with a hard fought 53-46 victory, but it didn’t take away from the effort given by the home team.
The Blue Devils reeled off a 9-0 run after Johnson County’s Emmy Miller had opened the game with a basket. They battled back to pull even on several occasions but never could surge in front despite four ties during the third quarter.
JCHS’ head coach Leon Tolley saw a much better performance by his squad than he did at Unaka on the previous night. He complimented them on their efforts.
“Unicoi County is a tough matchup for us,” said Tolley. They got the big lead early but we would battle back and tie the game, only to see us be our own worst enemy and not be able to take the lead. I’m most proud of the way we fought after last night’s game at Unaka. When you play two teams like that back-to-back, it’s hard to have anything in the tank. I thought our kids battled down to the wire, but we didn’t have a lot left in the tank at the end.”
See saw first half battle
Falling behind early took plenty out of their tank which saw them storm back to get back in the game.
Miller’s three-pointer and put back of a missed shot got things started, then Taylor Parsons followed with a nice spin move in the paint.
The Lady Longhorns trailed 13-9 after one but would press forward to take their only lead of the game in the second period.
Taylor Cox got things started with a left-handed runner and Courtney Brooks fired in a trey to get them within three.
A bucket each from Adrian Hall and Britain Peele gave them an 18-17 advantage capping off a 9-4 run.
Parsons kept Johnson County even with a nice spin move in the paint and Miller’s bucket left them trailing by one with 11 seconds remaining before halftime.
Halie Padgett’s 25-footer at the buzzer allowed Unicoi County to take a 28-24 lead into the locker room at intermission. But the Lady Longhorns weren’t got down without a fight and proved themselves to be one tough cookie during the final two quarters.
Close, but no cigar
The Lady Longhorns fell behind by seven to start the third quarter, but a long three by Hall tied the game at 33-all, capping off a 7-0 run. Miller kept the game tied at 35 on a strong move in the paint, but the Lady Devils closed the quarter on an 8-0 run and led 43-35 to start the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils never could get their lead extended to double-digits but did push it up to nine in the early going.
Johnson County surged back, getting a deuce each from Hall and Miller that whittled the deficit back down to five at 49-44 with 4:04 remaining.
The Longhorns got their last basket of the game by Courtney Brooks with 1:55 remaining that left them trailing 51-46.
Two forced shots and a turnover down the stretch spoiled any chance of a Lady Longhorn victory over one of the league’s frontrunners.
Miller had a big night scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds. Parsons added eight points, 11 rebounds and five steals. Brooks totaled eight points. Hall finished with seven points, five rebounds and three of the team’s five assists.
Padgett scored a game high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Lady Blue Devils.
The Lady Longhorns continue to show a vast amount of improvement over years past against a team who was one of the favorites to win the Three Rivers Conference. Tolley said it’s all a work in progress.
“We just have very little margin for error. We’re learning as we go. We played much better defensively tonight than against Unaka. We ran a bunch of different defenses tonight for the first time and we had success with them. I am very proud of our girls’ effort.”
Unicoi County 53, Johnson County 46
Unicoi Co. (53)
Padgett 20, Bailey 9, Powers 7, Vance 7, Hendrickson 4, King 6
Johnson Co. (46)
Miller 18, Parsons 8, C. Brooks 8, Hall 7, Cox 2, Peele 2, Cornett 1, Winters 0
Unicoi Co 13 15 15 10 — 53
Johnson Co. 9 15 12 10 — 46
3-point goals—UC 3 (Powers, Vance, Padgett) JC 3 (Hall, Miller, C. Brooks)