By Tim Chambers
KINGSPORT—Johnson County’s lack of offense once again was the primary factor in them falling to Sullivan South in their final regular season game. The second place Lady Rebels overcame a 24-22 third-quarter deficit to win going away 52-37 on senior night inside the Rebels Den.
It was a game between two teams going in different directions.
South won their sixth consecutive game to secure the second seed while the Lady Horns fell to 3-9 in league play after starting the season 2-0. They’ll enter the District tournament as the sixth seed.
Lady Longhorns’ head coach Leon Tolley agreed that it was frustrating to watch his team play so hard only to have a brief stretch where things fell apart. Four of their losses in league play came after leading in the third quarter.
“We’re up with the ball by two with 12 seconds to go before halftime and then turn it over twice and give up four points,” said Tolley. “Then our girls decide they want to start switching what we were doing on defense, but unfortunately they switched on the other team’s best shooter and left her open. Sadly this is a pattern that we have. We play our guts out, and then a two or three-minute stretch puts us behind the eight ball. We just can’t score enough points once we get behind. We’ve got to do a better job of valuing the basketball and knowing, who the other team’s best shooter is. The first minute of the fourth quarter did us in against Sullivan East, and a two-minute stretch did us in tonight.”
Tolley’s reference was right on the money.
An ill-advised pass in the closing seconds led to four quick points by South when his team should have had the halftime lead. Their second mistake was leaving Alex Harris wide open on three occasions, and each time she buried a three-ball. She added another one in the fourth quarter and was 5-of-7 from long range. All of her 15 points came from behind the three-point line.
“Harris kept us going,” said South’s Coach Terry Hutson. “She’s our shooter, and we’re pretty good when we can make shots. Johnson County’s is a scary team that plays hard. Their matchup zone is hard to figure out.”
Lady Horns get off to
a slow start
South used a three-point play by Carissa Comsa to open the game then led 8-2 in the early going. The Longhorns battled back with Taylor Cox swishing a three-ball and Emmy Miller scoring in the paint.
They trailed 10-8 going into the second quarter.
The second period was much better for the Horns up until the final seconds that Tolley touched on. Emmy Miller tied the game at ten all on a jumper then Cox would later put them in front 22-20 on her second three-ball of the quarter.
That’s when South regained the momentum by stealing a pair of baskets off of turnovers to end the half on top by two.
Longhorns’ lead would soon disappear
Johnson County would battle back in the third quarter to take the lead on two separate occasions. Rhiannon Icenhour put them up 20-18 with a strong move in the paint while Cox made it 24-22 with a nice runner off the left side with 3:09 remaining in the frame.
That’s when Harris found a way to get open and drain three straight treys to put South in front to stay 31-24.
Johnson County used a pair of trifecta’s from Natalie Winters and Cox to get within three at 33-30, but they couldn’t defend the three-ball.
The dagger came when Mollie Leslie’s sank their fourth one of the quarter to put the Lady Rebels up 36-30. That woke up Leslie who was honored before the game for scoring her 1,000th career point.
She tacked on eight of her 15 total in the fourth quarter that prevented any chance of a Johnson County comeback.
Harris and Leslie scored 15 points apiece while Cosma added seven.
Cox matched their output with 15 points, and Miller added six points, and eight rebounds but the Horns got only eight total points from their remaining starters. Icenhour contributed five points and five rebounds off the bench. Winters dished out four assists to lead the Horns in that department.
The Longhorns played their third consecutive game without their second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Taylor Parsons. She will likely return in time for Wednesday’s tournament game.
The Horns finished the regular season at 13-14 overall. South stands at 18-10 and 8-4 in league play.
JCHS 8 12 10 7 -37
Sulllivan S. 10 12 14 16 -43