'Horns, Lady Highlanders get job done

By Travis Brown

STAR Staff

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- The Johnson County Longhorns were looking to exploit their home floor advantage Monday night as they invited up the Cloudland Highlanders for a double dip of hoops action.
   The Lady Highlanders would steal the first half of the varsity spotlight, establishing an early lead and maintaining the pressure en route to a 59-32 victory.
   Cloudland got the offense rolling with some help from the defensive end of the floor. Consecutive turnovers allowed the Lady 'Landers to secure the early lead with easy transition baskets. With 3:26 left in the first period, Cloudland led by six.
   By the end of the first period, the Lady Longhorns were starting to find some answers but trailed 15-7 heading to the second stanza.
   The second period would only complicate things for Johnson County. Despite Ryan Tillman's six points in the period, the Longhorns fell behind even further, and would face a 13-point deficit heading into halftime.
   The second half offered up more of the same as Cloudland cruised to a 27 point victory over the struggling Lady Longhorns.
   "We set the tone early," Lady 'Landers coach Matt Birchfield said. "We moved the ball well on offense and got good shots."
   For the 'Landers, Tara Hanson (16 points), Amy Storie (10) and Nicki Webb (10) reached double figures in scoring.
   Longhorn skipper Eric Crabtree is hoping his troops will right the ship before tonight's matchup with Volunteer.
   "We have to come out and play with a mix of unbridled passion and headstrong intelligence," Crabtree said.
   Longhorns 70
   Highlanders 50
   The Johnson County Boys team took the hardwood next and reclaim the homecourt honor, dusting off the Highlanders 70-50.
   The first period would offer up Cloudland's finest effort as it pulled even with 1:30 to play in the first quarter on a Cole Gouge 3-pointer.
   Cloudland picked up momentum and finished off the first quarter leading 20-17. From that point on it was all Longhorns.
   Defense dominated the entire second quarter as both teams were stifled offensively until late in the period. A couple of controversial calls and four consecutive points by Mark Byrd gave Cloudland a 1-point halftime advantage.
   Heading into the second half, the defensive intensity displayed by Johnson County continued to puzzle the 'Lander offense. Meanwhile the Longhorn offense was finding stride.
   With 2:52 remaining in the third quarter, Johnson County had taken a 9-point lead. With Matt Cornett leading all players with 20, and Michael Lipford (14) along with Tommy Short (12) and Judd Shoun (11) contributing double-digit efforts, the Longhorns easily breezed to the 20-point win.
   Longhorn head coach Austin Atwood was pleased with his team's response.
   "I felt like our defense was not very good in the first quarter," he said. "Our defense picked it up in the second and we hit the boards well in the third."
   Cloudland signal-caller Ned Smith was respectful of the Longhorns after the contest.
   "They've got bit strong athletes, "Smith said. "They killed us on the boards. We gave them to many offensive rebounds to win."
   Byrd led the 'Landers with 15 points. Robbie Tolley and Josh Johnson added 12 and 10, respectively.