Lady 'Dogs knock off Johnson Co.

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   Free-throw shooting is one of the basic fundamentals practiced every day by basketball teams.
   On Tuesday night at Van Huss-White Gym, the art might have won the Hampton Lady Bulldogs a key Watauga Conference game.
   The Lady 'Dogs outscored Johnson County 14-4 from the charity stripe en route to a thrilling 45-41 victory over the Lady Longhorns.
   "It did," Hampton head coach Leslie Campbell said when asked if free-throw shooting was the difference. "Right now I'm pleased with any kind of victory that we can get, whether it's ugly or pretty. As long as we can win. We needed it.
   When it mattered down the stretch, the Lady 'Dogs stepped up at the foul line. Hampton went 7-of-8 in the final quarter from the foul line.
   Johnson County, on the other hand, shot just 2-of-7 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
   With the score tied at 39 in with 1:15 left, Heather Chambers drew a foul and ended up making the go-ahead free-throws.
   The Lady Bulldogs held on after a Laura Peters bucket with :10 seconds to cut Hampton's lead to 43-41 with 10 seconds to go when Joy Gardner hit two free-throws after being fouled. That pretty much sealed the deal for Hampton.
   Overall, Hampton went 6-of-6 from the foul line in the final 1:15 of the contest.
   Chambers was one of the go-to foul shooters on the night. She hit 5-of-6 from the foul line en route to a 14-point performance.
   Chambers feels this squad is starting to come around.
   "If it wasn't for teamwork we wouldn't have anything," Chambers said. "Our shooting is a little off, but we came through tonight. Pretty much what won the game was our teamwork."
   While the Lady Dogs were celebrating their victory, Johnson County was thinking once again about what might have been.
   Johnson County head coach Eric Crabtree felt free-throw shooting cost his team the contest.
   "74 percent to 31 percent, that pretty much sums it up," he said. "That's what beat us. "They hit their foul shots and we didn't. Plain and simple."
   It was a nip and tuck game almost the whole way, as the biggest lead was seven, an advantage held by Hampton twice.
   "Unlucky things happen to teams that are not playing well," Crabtree said. "We had plenty of opportunities, and had the ball kicked away from us. We may have gotten a steal, and then it would get kicked away out of our hands. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you've got to break away that curse. We've got to find a way to break it.
   "I feel we played well enough to win. I feel we played at times better than they did. We should of been ahead the whole game. I think they did a good job of staying ahead."
   Joy Gardner added 10 the Hampton's cause. Elena Owens topped Johnson County with 18, while freshman Ryann Tillman finished with 11.
   Hampton improves to 3-6 in Watauga Conference play and 5-11 overall, while the Lady Longhorns drop to 1-8 in league play and 2-14 overall.