Warriors escape 'Horns

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com
MOUNTAIN CITY -- Happy Valley pulled off the great escape.
Despite scoring a season-low 34 points in the ballgame and being completely shut out the entire third period, the Warriors left Johnson County with a 34-32 Watauga Conference win over the homestanding Longhorns.
"The Good Lord was looking out for us tonight," said HV head coach Charlie Bayless. "We didn't score at all in the third quarter. We played good defense, but our offense stunk. We couldn't make one.
"Johnson County played a good zone. They were aggressive in it. We did good the first half, but in the second, we couldn't even make a shot under the basket."
The Warriors appeared to be headed for an easier time in the first half. After trailing 6-5 in the first quarter, they scored 12 unanswered points that catapulted them to an 11-point lead early in the second quarter.
Johnson County kept things in check, holding the Warrior lead at nine points (23-14) at the half.
Next came the offensive struggles of the third quarter. Incredibly, the only player to score from either team the entire eight minutes was Longhorn point guard Judd Shoun, who accounted for six points.
Two scores by Alex Carroll and John Bulla pushed the HV lead back to seven in the final period, but Shoun wasn't finished. He knocked down a trey to cut the lead back to four. After trading baskets, the 'Horns Jesse Jenkins hit a three-pointer himself to pull Johnson County within one.
Shoun would finally give the 'Horns a lead of 32-21 with 1:16 left in the game. Bulla tied up the affair at 32-apiece with 38 seconds left by making one of two at the stripe.
Shoun penetrated the lane as the seconds wound down, but missed a driving shot to the basket. On the battle for the rebound, the Longhorns' Jon Stout was whistled for the foul after he and HV's Tim Whaley tangled.
Only four seconds remained when Whaley calmly stepped to the line and hit the two winning free throws.
"I've been practicing my free throws a lot lately," said Whaley. "At the first of the season, I wasn't hitting them. Tonight I was able to hit some critical foul shots.
"It's good to win on the road, even this ugly game. We didn't play good, but we did play hard and stayed after it on defense."
On the inbounds, the 'Horns were able to get the ball in Shoun's hands. He launched a trey before the buzzer, but the shot was no good. Despite the two misses, Shoun was the heart of the Johnson County offense on this night, leading the team with 14 points.
"Coach told me being a senior, either me or (Michael) Lipford was going to have to take control of the team," said Shoun. "I was trying to lead the team to victory, but they are an athletic bunch.
"We held them to zero points in the third quarter, but we made too many stupid mistakes and stupid turnovers. We had them where we wanted to be. That game could have went the other way if we had hit a few more shots."
The loss was a tough one for all the Longhorn faithful to swallow, particularly head coach Austin Atwood.
"We missed 14 lay-ups in the game, including seven in the third quarter," said Atwood, whose team now stands at 6-11 on the year. "We did play good defense. They were averaging 73 points a game and we held them to 34. When you don't come out with a win, it's tough.
"We weren't making shots, but the effort was there. If you watched Saturday's game (a blowout loss to Unicoi), there was a 50 percent turnaround. If we keep giving efforts like this, we will be ready at tournament time."
Happy Valley was led in scoring by Whaley with 11 points and Bulla also with 11. Alex Carroll added eight in the win.
"I've been working hard practicing with these guys," said Bulla. "It was good to come out with a win. I was trying to step up when I needed to, but it was a team effort. I can't take all the credit for that."
Next up for HV, who has a 6-4 record, is a game at Hampton on Friday night. The Longhorns will travel to Church Hill Friday to face Volunteer.
Lady Warriors 64,
Lady Longhorns 54
"What beat us tonight was transition baskets and Brandi Dugger," commented Johnson County head coach Eric Crabtree when a reporter asked him the difference in the game.
Dugger was the starlet in a role of big game player for the Lady Warriors. She led the team with 22 points, including three shots behind the three-point line and she dished out six assists.
"I've been working at becoming a more complete player," said Dugger. "I had been driving in and not able to get the ball to our players inside. I've been working more on my passing and hitting shots outside."
"As a team, two of our seniors couldn't play that much tonight, but we were able to come together in the end. We've been getting after each other a lot more in practice. We're real athletic, we just have to get it together.
Even head coach Ben Godsey acknowledged the night belonged to the junior guard/forward.
"I tell you Brandi played her best game of the year, hitting some big shots for us," said Godsey. "Right now, she is looking for the open person and getting better and better.
"I was glad to get the win, particularly after the way we played the first half. The second half we were more patient and penetrated their zone."
Ending the first half, Johnson County had a 22-21 lead going into the locker room. After falling behind early in the third, April McCloud's trey tied the game for the Lady 'Horns at 31-31.
Then Ms. Dugger took over with three straight scores, including a trey that gave HV a 41-33 lead. In the fourth quarter Terra Whaley, who missed the start of the game with the flu, hit seven foul shots to ice the game.
Despite the illness, Whaley ended up with 15 points.
Falling to 1-9 on the season wasn't as painful for Johnson County as it could have been. Coach Crabtree saw gains in his team with their performance against Happy Valley.
"I thought we played well," said Crabtree. "We forced them to shoot a lot of outside shots. Except for the open threes we gave Dugger, I thought we did well.
"I really can't complain. Our girls have nothing to be ashamed of. We played well against one of the top four teams in our league."
The lone senior on the Lady Longhorn squad, Elena Owens put on a brilliant offensive performance with a team-high 18 points.
"We played as a team and worked hard," said Owens. "When we do that, we can hang with about anybody. I just was trying to move in and out to get some baskets. They are a very athletic team, so it was hard to get any easy shots."
McCloud contributed 11 points for Johnson County and Laura Peters had nine. As a team they sank five shots behind the three-point arc, McCloud had three, while Owens and Brittany Cole hit one apiece.
Happy Valley got seven points from Kortney Goulds, six points from Kate Powell and five from Mandy Byrd, who like Whaley was suffering from the flu. The victory evened their record at 6-6 for the season.