Happy Valley rallies past Johnson County

Douglas Fritz • Feb 16, 2012 at 11:31 PM

ERWIN — Johnson County was painting a masterpiece, but Happy Valley was a harsh art critic.

The Lady Warriors trailed by 14 points midway through the third quarter, but battled back for a 47-42 win in the quarterfinals of the District 1-AA tournament on Thursday night at Devils Den.

A 17-0 run helped keep the season alive for the Warriors (11-17) and moved them into the semifinals to meet top-seeded Unicoi County at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“I wasn’t real nice in the locker room at halftime,” said Happy Valley coach Erica Beach. “I told the girls it was either show up now, or go to the house and wait for 2012-13. We’re not ready for that.”

In the other quarterfinal contest, Sullivan East ran away from Sullivan North, 67-48. The Lady Patriots (16-13) will take on second-seeded Elizabethton in Saturday’s first semifinal at 4 p.m.

Johnson County had a very impressive first half, racking up 11 assists on its 13 buckets and building a 27-16 lead.

“The execution in the first half was beautiful,” said Longhorns’ head coach Todd Whittemore. “I thought we were performing surgery out there.”

Johnson County pushed its lead to 34-20 with 4:23 left in the third quarter. But then the dream turned into a nightmare as Happy Valley turned up the heat and the Longhorns wilted.

“I think it was the worst coaching job I’ve done in 17 years,” said Whittemore. “The kids played hard and it’s not their fault.”

Freshman Jenna Eaton played a key role in the 17-0 run by the Warriors. She made a 3-pointer to slice the lead to 34-25, and added another bucket to make it 34-29.

Eaton finished with a career-high 15 points.

“We were frustrated at halftime,” said Eaton. “Coach told us we had three minutes in the third quarter to get things turned around.

“They started making mistakes and it got us pumped. And we played like a team.”

The Longhorns went 6:38 without scoring, but still had a chance down the stretch. Brooke Brown made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 39-38 with 4:49 left in the game.

However, Mackenzie Blankenship’s three-point play with 2:25 left gave the Warriors a comfortable four-point advantage.

Blankenship finished with 10 points.

Beach said her team is ready for the next challenge.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Beach. “I hope we have two more kids step up Saturday.”

Sarah Swift led Johnson County with 12 points and also added six rebounds. Brooke Brown totaled 11 points, five assists and five steals.

Sullivan East 67

Sullivan North 48

After a sluggish first half where the Patriots led only 27-19, East turned it on with a 26-10 third quarter to put the game away.

The Patriots caught fire from 3-point land and finished with 13 treys. Angel Trent made three of them and led the team with 23 points.

Savanna Summers added 14 points and four triples. Courtney Stewart hit three 3-balls and finished with 11 points.

“Our kids were confident coming in,” said East head coach Allan Aubrey. “We just couldn’t make a shot in the first half. But we do have really good shooters, and if they keep shooting it will eventually go in.”

The Patriots have won 12 of 17 games after a 4-8 start to the season.

Aubrey praised the defensive effort of Brittany Scott on North’s Kaysey Williams, who was held to eight points.

“Brittany is unbelievable,” said Aubrey. “She’s got a motor like I’ve never seen before.”

Sullivan North got 15 points from Mackenzie Sumpter and 14 from Anna Owens.

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