Second-half surge separates Central from Lady Longhorns

By Matt Hill

   BLOUNTVILLE -- The Johnson County Lady Longhorns may not be that familiar with boxer Evander Holyfield, but they were the real deal in the first half against Sullivan Central Friday night.
   But the Lady Cougars were just too tough in the second half, as the Watauga Conference leaders rolled to a 64-37 victory Friday night at the Cougar Cage.
   The Lady Longhorns were only down 25-21 at the half, but Johnson County head coach Eric Crabtree thought his team just got away from the game plan in the final 16 minutes.
   "We just got out of our game plan again," Crabtree said. "We wanted to really work our tempo, control the game, and then in the second half they controlled the game. They controlled the tempo, and they controlled the speed."
   Crabtree thought that speed eventually took its toll on the Lady Longhorns.
   "We just don't have the speed to keep up with a running game," Crabtree said. "We've got to do what makes us successful. I felt we did that in the first half, then in the second half we let them control the game instead of us controlling the game."
   Another reason for Sullivan Central turning the game around was due to rebounding, which is understandable with Sullivan Central having several very tall players.
   "It's hard to compete when you're in the trees," Crabtree said. "We don't have any trees of our own. But our girls battled, and they didn't get scared. They battled, and that wears on them. Central has depth and size, and that's hard to compete with sometimes."
   Crabtree was pleased with how the Lady Longhorns did make a game out of it for a half, as Central lead by no more than six points in the first two quarters.
   "We did everything we were supposed to," Crabtree said. "We gave up some easy stuff, but for the most part we did everything we had set out to do in the first half. We talked about doing the same things in the second half, it just didn't work out that way.
   Jessica Townsend came up big in this one for Johnson County. Townsend scored nine in the first half, and had 13 for the game.
   "She was visible, she got some shots off, and she battled," Crabtree said. "She played well."
   Andrea McQueen scored eight for Johnson County, while Elena Owens netted six.
   Lindsey McGrady topped Sullivan Central with 16, while Amber Salley poured in 10.
   Central head coach Gary Surcey thought that defense played a big part in the Lady Cougars huge second half.
   "We needed to pick up the defensive pressure and we did," Surcey said. "I thought we rebounded good, and I thought we got the ball out better on the break in the second half."
   Johnson County now falls to 0-8 in the Watauga Conference, and 4-10 overall.
   Sullivan Central 74
   Johnson County 45
   The Cougars started out the game on a 13-2 run, and never looked back against the Longhorns.
   "When they're on, they're hard to beat," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said. "They're hard to guard. They have a lot of shooters. We just sort of had to play their style in the second half, and try to get up and down the floor. You can't run with them too much, and they got us in a running game.
   Johnson County cut Central's lead down to 45-36 with 3:44 left in the third quarter, but a 16-2 run dampened any hopes of the Longhorns getting back into the game.
   Sullivan Central's John Lesueur was a thorn in Johnson County's side Friday night. He scored 22 points, with 16 of those coming in the first half.
   "He's a shooter," Atwood said. "If we play in Mountain City, we might have a different game plan against LeSueur, but then you have (Josh) Crain there."
   Crain was held to four points, but post Gabe Vannoy finished with 13 for Central.
   Central did a good job of containing one of Northeast Tennessee's most prolific scorers. Johnson County's Matt Cornett poured in 43 on the Cougars when the two teams met in Mountain City over a month ago, but was held to just 11 points Friday night.
   Atwood believes the Longhorns just aren't finding him right now.
   "It wasn't as much them guarding Cornett, but us not finding him," Atwood said. "We've had trouble finding him the past few games. We've got to start finding him better."
   Johnson County now falls to 2-6 in the Watauga Conference, and is 6-14 overall.
   The Longhorns won a big game against Unaka Monday night, but couldn't find that same magic Tuesday night against Sullivan North, and on Friday night.
   "We can definitely beat anybody on any night, but we definitely be beat by anybody on any night," Atwood said. "But I don't like that. That's inconsistency, and that's not good on my part. I shouldn't have a team that's so inconsistent."
   * The Cougars were called for a technical foul in the third quarter for something that had nothing to do with them. After a made basket by Vannoy, the Sullivan Central students started throwing plastic golf balls out onto the court.