CHS girls lasso 'Horns

Photo by Kristen Luther
Jenny Tugman of Johnson County and Cloudland's Heather Banner force a jump ball.

By Tim Chambers
STAR Correspondent

   There's a favorite saying among sports fans that goes "I would rather win ugly than lose pretty." This was the case in Monday night's game between the Lady Highlanders and the Johnson County Longhorns.
   Cold shooting and turnovers plagued both teams throughout the evening, but in the end, the Highlanders hung on for a 38-34 win over the visiting Longhorns at Sonny Smith Gymnasium.
   The Highlanders jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind the offensive production of Heather Banner. Johnson County scored its first bucket five minutes into the game on a jumper by Elena Owens to trail 4-2.
   Jessica Lunsford followed with two free throws along with another Banner baseline jumper. Lunsford's runner in the paint increased the lead to 10-3, but the 'Horns answered behind a Paige Morefield deuce, cutting the lead to 10-5 after one.
   The offense was scarce in the second frame as neither team could get much going. A total of 10 points between both teams was all the offense in the period.
   Key buckets by Jessica McGuire and Kala Blevins helped keep the Landers in front. April McCloud provided some nice play for the Longhorns in the second period.
   "I tried to step in and do a good job," stated Blevins. "We did some good things tonight so we are happy with a win. We can play much better."
   Things started to heat up some in the third stanza as Lunsford and McGuire came out firing with two nice hoops to increase the lead at 19-10. Owens answered with a two, but Lunsford found the mark again with a nice floater in the paint to extend the lead at 21-12.
   The 'Horns refused to fold as a big three from Brittney Cole closed the margin to 21-17. Cloudland found some new life in the form of Kala Blevins and Rebecca Clawson, whose buckets increased the lead to 25-18.
   The Horns found their offense in the fourth period, via way of reserve guard Ashley Howard. It was a Howard three that closed the gap to 25-22.
   Lunsford's nice left-handed layin, which accounted for a three-point play, increased the margin to 28-22 and the lead continued to grow on two free throws by Blevins.
   The 'Horns showed lots of heart, reaching down deep one last time and making a run to send the crowd into a frenzy. Billie Hurd hit for two, Morefield followed with a bucket, and Johnson County trailed 31-26 with 3:00 remaining.
   Laura Peters would add to the Longhorn offense with a putback to edge the' Horns closer at 31-28. A Blevins bucket and free throw pushed the lead back to 37-34, but the 'Horns dug in one last time.
   A three-point play by Hurd with :48 remaining put the score at 34-31. A Howard steal and drive decreased the lead to one at 34-33 with :23 remaining.
   Lunsford was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and proceeded to calmly hit 2-2 to give Cloudland a 36-33 advantage. Howard answered with a free throw, but the 'Horns had to foul and it was Blevins who canned two, thus giving Cloudland a hard-fought win.
   Lunsford led all scorers with 14, followed by Blevins with 11. Howard was tops for the 'Horns with seven while Hurd and Owens accounted for six.
   "We are capable of playing with anyone or we can by the type of team that can lose to anyone if we don't come ready," said Cloudland head coach Matt Birchfield.
   "Kayla (Blevins) played a good game tonight and knocked down some key free throws. I am very proud of her effort."