Lady 'Horns surprise Volunteer

By Matt Hill

   CHURCH HILL -- The Johnson County girls basketball game Tuesday night can be compared to eating chocolate cake. It was sweet for the Lady Longhorns.
   The Lady Longhorns pulled a shocker by defeating the Volunteer Lady Falcons 44-33 at Volunteer's Gym.
   Volunteer came into the game with seven Watauga Conference wins, while the Lady Longhorns were just 1-11 in the Watauga entering Tuesday's battle.
   But the Lady Longhorns took Volunteer to overtime at Johnson County last month, and point guard Courtney Shaw believed the girls from Mountain City could pull off the upset.
   "We knew we could win," Shaw said. "Whenever they came up here they beat us in overtime by like three points, so we knew they weren't any better than us. We knew we could come out here and beat them. We rebounded well, and shot the ball better than we did at home. We played good together as a team."
   Johnson County only trailed one time in the contest, and made big baskets every time the Lady Falcons were threatening.
   "We did what we had to do to win tonight," Johnson County head coach Eric Crabtree said. "We put a game together. We played four quarters. We had our little slacks where we weren't executing, and not playing defense. But for four quarters, that's about as good a game as we've played."
   The Lady Longhorns didn't have a stellar shooting effort, but the difference might have been rebounding. Johnson County finished the night with 32 rebounds.
   Elena Owens tallied eight points with nine rebounds, but Shaw managed seven despite being the point guard.
   "We rebounded well, played defense well, and played offense well enough to do what we needed," Crabtree said.
   Free-throw shooting and defense were big for the Lady Longhorns down the stretch. Johnson County held a 32-25 lead going into the fourth quarter, but an 8-3 run in the first 5:45 of the final stanza dwindled the Lady Longhorns edge down to 35-33 with 2:15 left.
   But Johnson County hit nine free-throws to close the game, while holding the Lady Falcons scoreless in the last 2:15 to come away with the upset.
   Crabtree was pleased with the defense at the end, and throughout most of the second half.
   "In the second half we made them take tough shots," Crabtree said. "They missed a lot of shots, but we at least forced them to take shots with people in their face, or holding them to one chance. We didn't give up many offensive rebounds in the second half."
   The Lady Longhorns came out of the gate on fire, as they raced out to a 13-4 lead in the opening minutes.
   Volunteer came back to go ahead 15-14 with 6:00 to go in the second quarter, but that was the only time the Lady Falcons led in the contest. Johnson County rallied to take a 23-18 advantage at halftime, and led by as many as nine points in the third quarter.
   Shaw had a tremendous outing for the Lady Longhorns. In addition to the rebound total, she scored 13 points.
   Shaw is not known as a scorer, but has really stepped up in the last couple of weeks.
   "She's done well the last two or three ball games," Crabtree said. "She's been more aggressive getting to the hole, and that's what I wanted her to do all season. She's my point guard, she's my controller, and I want her to have that confidence that she can score any time she wants to."
   Andrea McQueen also had 13 points on the night, and hit three trifectas.
   Joy Dobbs topped Volunteer with 14 points.
   The Lady Longhorns improve to 2-11 in the Watauga and 7-15 overall.
   Volunteer 60
   Johnson County 49
   Johnson County made a valiant fourth quarter comeback, but it wasn't enough to dethrone the Falcons.
   The Longhorns were trailing 47-30 going into the final stanza, but a barrage of baskets by Matt Cornett helped cut the Falcon lead down to 52-47 with 1:30 left.
   That's as close as Johnson County got, as Volunteer made its free-throws down the stretch to secure the win.
   "We never showed up," Johnson County head coach Austin Atwood said.
   The Longhorns shut Watauga Conference Player-of-the-Year candidate Ryan Marshall down to ten points, but he found other ways to hurt the Longhorns.
   "He might have had ten points, but he probably had 10 or 12 offensive rebounds, and so did (Chuck) Lindhelm," Atwood said. "They beat us on the boards. If there was a loose ball that could have gone either way they got it. If there was a rebound that could have gone either way they got it.
   Their boys just played harder than ours."
   Volunteer head coach Todd Whittemore did applaud the Longhorns for their effort.
   "Austin Atwood does a great job," Whittemore said. "He's a great coach. I knew they weren't going to give up. They had no giving up in them tonight. They battled and fought, and we expected that."
   Cornett scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Longhorns. Judd Shoun added 12 for Johnson County.
   Lindhelm topped the Falcons with 15, while Josh Carr poured in 14 for Volunteer.
   The 'Horns drop to 8-16 overall and 4-9 in Watauga Conference play.
   Both Johnson County teams will be at home Friday night against Sullivan North.